With its 45-14 win over the Pipestone Arrows last Friday, the Marshall Tigers football team improved to 23-3 overall and 14-1 against Southwest Conference foes since the start of the 2010 season. The Tigers' average margin of victory in their 23 wins is 31.2 points.
Having one good year can often be the result of a few fortunate breaks or an incredible athlete, but to put together a run such as the Tigers are on requires a healthy program.
"I remember in 2006, they thought we were just going to be solid that one year and have a good team that one year, but we built some depth," Marshall head coach Terry Bahlmann said.
Marshall followed up an 8-1 record in 2006 by going 15-4 over its next two seasons. The foundation was laid for the Marshall program.
High school athletics, much like college, is marked by turnover. To be able to reload a program and not be forced to rebuild it is paramount to maintaining a high level of success. And although the names in the headlines and on the stat sheet have changed, the expectations for and of future Tigers has not changed.
"We take pride in, hopefully, doing things right all the time, and that leads to the next group coming on and being ready to play," Bahlmann said. "We've been able to build off of that, and kids have taken pride in our program. When it's their turn to step up, they're ready to go."
For the Marshall program, it all begins in practice. Each week as the varsity players prepare for that Friday's opponent, the task of running the opposition's plays, or posing as a key player, falls on the next wave of Tigers.
"It's part of the learning curve for us," Bahlmann said. "We expect our young kids to come in and run the other team's offensive and defensive schemes. If they give us a good look, as we say, then we're going to get better in practice.
"Is it a tough job to come in a play against the varsity all the time? It is a tough job. But it makes them better, playing that kind of competition, and leads for them to step in when their time comes."
This internal competition engine has powered the Tigers to a 5-0 start (3-0 Southwest Conference) in 2012 despite losing 4,137 yards of offense and 59 total touchdowns from a season ago. It has eased the transition from year to year and provided a ready stable of athletes to fill in whatever voids the Tigers may face.
It is still too early in the season to begin thinking about 2013, but with 25 seniors on the roster this year, the strength of the program will likely be tested following the current campaign.
On Friday, the Class AAAA sixth-ranked Tigers travel to Windom to face a program that has fallen on hard times lately. The Eagles are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, which could be as high as 19 games if not for a solitary win in 2011 (via forfeit).
"We need to be focused and ready to go," Bahlmann said. "It's a game on paper, yeah we look like a favorite, but anything can happen in a game. We need to come out and take care of business right away."