Unbeaten Marlow ends Bethel's historic season

Brian Johnson
Bethel senior linebacker LW Moore (20) prepares to wrap up Marlow's Chase Knight (26) for the tackle Friday night in the second round of the Class 2A football playoffs in Marlow.

MARLOW – The big-play capabilities of the unbeaten Marlow Outlaws put an end to the Bethel Wildcats' historic football season Friday night.

Quarterback Jace Gilbert ran for four touchdowns and passed for two more as Marlow upended Bethel 70-33 in the second round of the Class 2A football playoffs.

The Outlaws (10-0) advance to host Chandler in the third round Friday.

Gilbert raced for TD runs of 20, 5, 19 and 16 yards and hooked up with Will Bergner on an 80-yard scoring aerial and Kyle Wilson on a 33-yard touchdown pass.

Bergner also scored off a 49-yard punt return as Marlow was able to take advantage of short-field situations and secure control of the game in the first half.

The Wildcats (6-4) also committed three turnovers in the contest – two lost fumbles and an interception.

“They had a good athlete at quarterback, a good athlete at running back and their No. 21 (Julian Marroquin) is a great defensive player,” said Bethel head coach Joey Ginn. “But at the end of the day, we just made too many mistakes.”

After the Wildcats went on a 15-play, 80-yard drive to open the game - capped by junior Corey Metscher's 1-yard run - the Outlaws got two quick scores to take control late in the first quarter.

A partially blocked punt set Marlow up at the Bethel 20-yard line. On the ensuing play, Gilbert scrambled for the TD which led to a 7-all tie with 1:55 left in the first.

Then after the Wildcats came up empty on their next possession, they were forced to punt from their 18. Bergner then took the punt and raced 49 yards for the touchdown with only 51 seconds remaining in the first. That led to a 14-7 Outlaw advantage.

After Bethel was unable to generate offense once again, Bergner nearly cut loose again when he fielded the 33-yard punt at the Marlow 48-yard line and returned it to the Wildcat 18-yard line. It took five plays for the Outlaws to punch it in as Gilbert scored off a 5-yard scamper which led to a 21-7 cushion with 9:19 left before halftime.

Bethel responded on its next possession when quarterback Jesse Tucker scored off a 5-yard run which concluded a 14-play, 72-yard series with 4:07 remaining in the second quarter. The PAT was blocked leaving the score at 21-13.

However, Marlow got two quick scores before intermission.

Gilbert hooked up with Bergner on the 80-yard scoring pass as Bergner had a big cut against the grain deep in Wildcat territory after making a catch and sprinted into the end zone as the score swelled to 28-13 after Gilbert's fourth-straight point-after kick with 3:46 left before the break.

With 1:29 remaining, Gilbert hit Wilson for the 33-yard score to up the Outlaw lead to 35-13.

The Wildcats, however, retaliated with only 18 seconds to go before halftime when Tucker tossed a 38-yard scoring pass to junior John Gordon to wrap up a seven-play, 80-yard drive. Two key plays of the series were a Tucker 19-yard pass to Metscher and a 17-yard aerial to Gordon, setting the stage for the late second-quarter score.

The Outlaws held the 35-19 advantage at halftime.

Marlow then went on to score off its first five possessions of the second half in pulling away. Gilbert scored twice off runs of 19 and 16 yards in the third. Julian Marroquin also had a pair of scores from 5 and 13 yards. Backup quarterback Avrey Payne had a 38-yard run for a score late in the fourth.

Metscher had a 2-yard TD run in the third quarter and Tucker scored off an 8-yard run with 1:07 left in the game for Bethel.

Ironically, the Wildcats had more offensive yards in the game (435-379) and had a 25-16 advantage in first downs. But the Outlaws had the big plays and the short field on their side most of the night.

Tucker, in his career finale, was 25-of-47 passing for 282 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Dez Loving, also a senior, finished with 78 yards rushing on only nine carries and Tucker ended up with 48 yards on 15 attempts and the two short TD runs. A bulk of the Wildcat receptions came from senior Drae Wood and Gordon.

“I told our seniors after the game that those guys have come a long way since they were freshmen. We got our first playoff home game and our first playoff win this year. It was like night and day. They were a huge part of how far we've come,” Ginn said. “Going through all that COVID stuff, I admire these kids. It's been crazy, but they haven't batted an eye once.”

Note: It was Bethel's fifth winning season in school history and the first time they made the second round of the playoffs.