FAIRMONT - Class 3A, No. 2-ranked Fairmont and Class 4A powerhouse Marshall will receive their first real tests of the prep football campaign, and it's only Week 2.
The state runner-up Cardinals (1-0) will seek to avenge their only loss of the 2011 regular season - a 40-21 defeat at Marshall's hands - when the hard-hitting Tigers (1-0) venture to Mahoney Field on Friday night for a 7 p.m. non-league clash of titans in Fairmont.
Marshall mentor Terry Bahlmann's 5-2 defense recorded five quarterback sacks en route to limiting Mankato East to just 127 total yards in coasting to a season-opening 42-7 victory last Friday night on Southwest Minnesota State University's turf in Marshall.
Meanwhile, Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney's 4-3 defensive unit allowed only 134 rushing yards and zero through the air to flatten Worthington, 47-15, during last Friday night's seasonal debut at Trojan Field.
While both the Tigers and Cardinals displayed mirror-like airtight defenses during Week 1, how each offense generated points proved quite opposite.
Marshall fullback Colton Citrowske, a 5-foot-10, 225-pounder, chewed up 185 yards en route to one touchdown on 20 totes, while tailback Rhett Struve neared the century rushing mark with 96 yards and one score on 13 carries.
Quarterback Austin Saugstad completed 7 of 11 passes for two TDs - both to 6-3, 215-pound split end Tanner Cirks - for 105 of the black-and-orange's 519 total yards.
"With four starters back, plus our tight end (6-2, 245-pound Aaron Mathiowetz), we knew our strength would be up front on offense. Our linemen are not only big physically, but are athletic and quick off the ball," Bahlmann said in reference to his front five, who average 254 pounds per blocker. "This is only his second year out for football ... but he (Citrowske) has become an old-style fullback for us. He's become a bull when he runs."
"Marshall may have lost some talented skill players from last year's team, but they have an offensive line that can move people around," Mahoney said in reference to tackles Tyus DeBoer (6-5, 275) and Austin Nath (6-2, 280, guards Alex Werner (6-6, 230) and Damon Brown (6-1, 220) and center Seth Abel (6-0, 265). "Defensively, we face the challenge of eliminating their big-play potential. They're a team that can strike fast, so we'll have to make them earn their yards by winning each first-down (situation)."
Fairmont's defensive front four will look to offset the 1,270 pounds worth of blockers by countering with a blend of strength and quickness in tackles Colton Hines (6-0, 270) and Bailey Koppen 6-4, 265) combined with ends Nick Roggow (6-3, 205) and Brandon Martin (5-10, 220).
Justin Barnes, an all-South Central Conference defensive lineman in 2011, will make the switch from end to outside linebacker for the Cardinals on Friday night due to an injury to standout Levi Becker.
"Levi injured the AC (acromioclavicular) joint in his shoulder against Worthington. We'll give him another week to heal and re-evaluate him again next week," said Mahoney.
While Barnes replaces Levi Becker from a defensive standpoint, Fairmont will maintain its quarterback rotation for a second straight game.
"We started Ted (Luke Hested) in the opener, and now we'll start Mitch (Pfingsten) in our second game," said Mahoney. "The switch was part of our plan from the beginning of the season, and isn't based on last week's performances."
"When you have a receiver who can catch the ball like No. 9, he makes every quarterback look pretty good," Bahlmann said in reference to split end Bryce Holm, who made seven catches for 116 yards and three TDs in the season-opener. "I thought both of Fairmont's quarterbacks threw the ball well.
"We'd like to shut down (fullback Brandon) Martin (79 yards and one TD on 12 carries) and take away their running game to force them to become one-dimensional.
"We've had great games in the past, and I think we're in store for another one."