Updated Sat, Sep 7, 2013 11:46 pm
As the Marietta Pioneers took the field for the first time in the Andy Waddle era on Saturday night, they hoped that they could get off on the right foot by ending a streak of futility dating back to 2011. Instead, the Pioneers stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first game to the Case Western Reserve Spartans by a score of 37-16.
The Pioneers surprised many from the opening snap, as Waddle and his staff decided to start quarterback Axten Franzoy instead of fifth-year senior Tom Fulton. Franzoy’s first pass attempt resulted in a Spartan interception, beginning a night full of struggles for the freshman. He finished just 9-for-23 for only 60 yards and two interceptions.
The Marietta offense was all but productive until Fulton replaced Franzoy in the fourth quarter and led the Pioneers on their two scoring drives of the game. Fulton finished 10-for-13 for 91 yards and a touchdown through the air, as well as a 3-yard TD run. Waddle will face with the decision of possibly bumping Fulton up to the top spot before Marietta’s next game in two weeks.
The Pioneers also entered this fall with questions at the running back position, but eventually sided with junior Tim Conner for the opener. The Marietta offensive line struggled to provide running room for the back, resulting in an 18-carry, 43-yard game for Conner.
Wide receivers Kirby Harris and Tannon Roberts made their marks on the 2012 game against Case, catching a combined 12 passes for 251 yards. With the struggles of Axten Franzoy, Harris and Roberts were limited, contributing only eight catches for 47 total yards between them.
The Marietta defensive squad gave up 37 points, but their production was not as invisible as the offense’s was for most of the game. The Pio defense held Spartan running back Kenny Riordan to just 54 yards after he slashed them last season for 155 yards. The Spartans accumulated four touchdowns in the running game, but most were set up by long pass plays by quarterbacks Erik Olson and Billy Beecher, who were a combined 14-for-20 for 234 yards on the night.
Senior defensive captain Jake Hammer picked up where he left off last season, totaling 13 tackles, while junior Cody Rice contributed nine.
The Pioneers head into a bye week before they debut in front of the home crowd at Don Drumm Stadium in Marietta on Sept. 21 against the Capital Crusaders. The Crusaders were a 2-8 team in 2012 that also lost their first game of the season by a score of 20-0.