By Jeff Arenz
MARSHALL - The weather is expected to play a large role during a Southwest Conference football game tonight when Marshall travels to take on Worthington.
Today's forecast is predicting an 80 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms throughout southwest Minnesota after 8 p.m. Kickoff for this game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
With that in mind, the Tigers and Trojans not only need to focus on their on-field battle, but also need to be prepared for slippery and sloppy playing conditions on Worthington's grass gridiron.
"Our offensive line needs to control the line of scrimmage, but it sounds like their is a chance for bad weather," Marshall head coach Terry Bahlmann said. "The more psychical team usually wins the game in that situation. I also feel that we have some decent speed this season. We don't know how the weather might impact us, but it usually is the equalizer when it comes to speed. Turnovers can also be the key in bad weather, depending on how sloppy the field gets."
This contest will break a second-place tie between the Tigers (2-3 overall, 2-1 SWC) and the Trojans (2-3, 2-1) in the league standings.
Marshall fell out of first place in the SWC after losing 35-14 at home against Class 2A No. 8-ranked Jackson County Central. Worthington also lost at home, but in a non-conference clash 41-0 versus Annandale.
"We need to clean everything up and keep improving," Bahlmann said. "We had a decent first half last week, but in the second half, we didn't get it done. Defensively, we gave up some big run plays in the second half. We have to secure that by tackling better and make plays when we have the chance."
The Trojans, who have won two of their last three games, enter this contest with a two-game winning streak against the SWC. Worthington won 14-6 at Redwood Valley on Sept. 13 before posting a 42-14 home victory over Windom Area on Sept. 20.
Part of the reason for the Trojans' success can be attributed to a switch at quarterback. Senior Will Dudley has been the Worthington signal-caller since starting at Redwood Valley. He struggled last Friday, going 4 of 15 for 44 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions versus the Cardinals.
When Dudley, who had been the Trojans' running back, made the switch, it opened up a spot for Troy Ektnitphong in Worthington's backfield.
Ektnitphong ran for 59 yards on 11 carries against Annandale last Friday, but has an 80-yard run for a touchdown versus Windom Area this season. Ektnitphong finished with 238 yards on 18 carries against the Eagles.
Blake Schroeder, a senior, is the Trojans primary receiver.
"Worthington is doing a few new things on offense. They are running the Straight T-formation, but they are also running the Slot and spreading things out similarly to what we're doing," Bahlmann said. "Worthington poses some problems on offense because they have speed in the backfield and they play with a lot of emotion. We have to match their emotion."
On defense, sophomore Torey Rogers has stepped up in his role at linebacker this season. Dudley also holds down a spot at safety.
Despite the loss to JCC last Friday, the Tigers were able to gain 253 yards from scrimmage.
Quarterback Brad Bahlmann accounted for most of those yards by throwing for 77 and rushing for 62 more. He completed 8 of 13 passes and tossed a TD to Jacob Falconer. In 2013, Bahlmann has been a dual threat, throwing for 624 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Sam Marshall is Marshall's top running back and top receiver. He has piled up 373 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and hauled in 19 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown through the air.
The Tigers' Jack Bock adds 112 rushing yards this season and Andrew Hmielewski chips in 16 receptions for 289 yards.