A long football playoff victory drought is going to end Friday night at Public School Stadium in Alton.
Waterloo and Marquette are a combined 0-13 in their last 13 playoff visits, with Waterloo losing its previous seven first-round games and Marquette dropping its last six.
Someone's going home a winner in a Class 4A first-round game set for 7 p.m. Friday.
"We've been 2A, 3A and now 4A in the last three years," said Marquette coach Tim Nelson, whose 8-1 squad ran roughshod over the competition to win the Prairie State Conference in its first year in the league. "Our kids don't really complain, they really thrive on the competition."
Marquette's only blemish on the schedule was a 30-6 loss to 4A playoff qualifier (Quincy) Notre Dame in Week 2. The Explorers average 48.5 points per game and have been held below 42 points only once.
That includes a 55-34 victory over 7-2 Priory, a St. Louis team that blasted Mater Dei 56-21 on Oct. 6.
Waterloo, which has lost three of its last four games, plays against bigger teams in a larger conference (the Mississippi Valley Conference). But Bulldogs coach Dan Rose said Marquette's speed and backfield talent -- especially Michael Ford and Keshon Young --present a formidable challenge.
"They're very fast and they like to run sweep and option," Rose said. "They're a predominant run team even though they run a spread offense. They don't look too different from Triad at times and then they'll look like Columbia at times."
Ford (1,328 yards, 26 TDs) averages 13 yards a carry and Young (657 yards, 16 TDs) averages 25.3 yards a carry. Both are dangerous on kickoff and punt returns as well.
Perhaps most impressive about Young are his 16 touchdowns while touching the ball only 32 times on offense this season. He's carried the ball 26 times for 657 yards while catching six passes for 222 yards.
"The one thing with Keshon Young is he's just so explosive," Nelson said. "When we get the ball in his hands great things happen. He's got the best vision of our running backs and receivers on the team."
Waterloo has a balanced offense led by senior quarterback Arik Bueltman, a huge offensive line and three running backs with at least 300 yards in Jackson Jennings, Drake Augustine and Rick Wiegand.
"They've got a good-looking quarterback that directs their offense really well," Nelson said. "He's elusive once he breaks containment."
Rose said Waterloo's path to success features long, sustained drives and avoiding turnovers.
"We've got to stop their speed," Rose said. "They've got three or four kids that I'm sure are faster than any kid we've had in our program -- ever." Friday's game: Waterloo (5-4) at Marquette (8-1)
Waterloo players to watch: QB Arik Bueltman (65 for 151 for 964 yards, 12 TDs, 5 Ints.; 60 carries for 135 yards rushing, 1 TD); RB Jackson Jennings (92 carries for 367 yards, 1 TD); RB-DB Drake Augustine (53 carries for 318 yards, 3 TDs; 12 catches for 151 yards; 65 tackles, 2 Ints.); WR Ethan Ruff (21 catches for 311 yards, 2 TDs); RB Rick Wiegand (60 carries for 300 yards, 1 TD); LB-TE Clayton Bourgeois (89 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries; 9 catches for 175 yards 2 TDs).
Marquette players to watch: RB Michael Ford (102 carries for 1,328 yards, 26 TDs); RB Keshon Young (26 carries for 657 yards, 10 TDs; 6 catches for 222 yards, 5 TDs); RB Brandon Kizer (88 carries for 575 yards, 6 TDs); QB Jack Miller (12 for 28 for 264 yards, 5 TDs. 3 Ints.); LB Nick Hoefert (71 tackles, 1 Int.); DL A.J. Lipka (34 tackles, 7 sacks).
Notes: This is the first time in 4A for the Explorers, making their seventh straight playoff appearance. Marquette's last playoff win was a 7-6 Class 3A first-round victory over Du Quoin in 2006. ... This is the 14th playoff appearance by Waterloo, which has lost 10 straight postseaon games dating back to a 34-19 Class 3A first-round win over Harrisburg in 1994. ... Nelson played under longtime area coach Ric Johns at Hardin Calhoun High.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.