BALLWIN -- Just about everything the Oakville High football team did during the first half of Friday's MSHSAA Class 4 District 1 playoff game at Marquette Stadium, worked out as some kind of positive.
The Tigers played terrific defense, had very few penalties, and they ran the ball effectively, even though star running back Moe LaGrand -- the 2012 Suburban West Conference rushing champion -- was injured and left the game after just one play.
Back on defense, Oakville forced three first-half turnovers, and sacked Marquette quarterback Austin Powers four times.
And without LaGrand, Oakville still managed a couple of big plays from wideout Avion Stevenson and fullback Derrick Brown that helped the Tigers build a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the second half went completely different, as nearly everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Tigers, eventually leading to a 35-yard miracle touchdown pass with just over one minute left in the game, from Powers to former volleyball-standout-turned-first-year-football-player Ben Cruse, that gave Marquette a totally impossible 16-14 first-round playoff win over Oakville.
"It's a heartbreaker, there's just no other way to put it," Oakville head coach Arlee Connors said. "We just didn't make enough plays to win it, and they did. You have to give credit to Marquette."
Somehow, you have to figure the football gods intervened as well, as the 6'5 Cruse, who had never played a down of organized football before this season, and had exactly one catch in his career coming into Friday's matchup, somehow found himself lined up against a smaller Oakville defensive back.
Stevenson, Oakville's regular starting right cornerback got injured in the second half, so that left the Tigers using a backup on what proved to be the most pivotal play of the season.
Powers recognized the mismatch and immediately fired a rainbow pass up the left sideline that Cruse leaped high for and hauled in as the defender fell down.
Cruse then easily strolled into the end zone to give his team the lead, and score might have been the biggest touchdown in Marquette football history.
"I don't even know what happened," Cruse said. "It's still a blur. I just saw the ball coming, and I knew I had to catch it. Next thing I know, I was in the end zone getting tackled by my teammates."
Cruse was lucky it was only two guys that tackled him, as nearly everybody in the building rooting for Marquette ran on the field to congratulate him.
When order was restored, the Mustangs had a two-point lead and Oakville had just 1:46 left to try to come back.
With two timeouts left, that was almost enough time, as Oakville drove all the way to Marquette's 31-yard line with 39.8 seconds left.
Unfortunately though, a third down pass by Oakville quarterback Andrew Oliver was intercepted near the goal line by Marquette's Matt Scheibel, ending the Tigers' comeback chances and setting off a second wild celebration on the Mustang sideline.
"It seemed like all season, if there was a 50-50 play or a 50-50 call, it never went our way," Connors said. "It was just that kind of a season, I guess. But these kids played hard all year, and we were in every game, and had a chance to win every game. So we'll take this loss, and get ready for next season."
Oakville, which got its scores on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Oliver to Stevenson and a 19-yard touchdown run by Brown, finished its season with a 4-6 record.
Marquette improved to 5-5, and will play unbeaten Lafayette next Friday, in the MSHSAA Class 4 District 1 semifinals at Lafayette High.
The winner of that contest will advance to the district championship game, which will be played the following Friday, November 9, at a site yet to be determined.
"We're going to have to play a perfect game to beat Lafayette," Marquette head coach Ryan Thornhill said. "We'll enjoy this win, and then we're going to get started on what we need to do to win next week."
Kickoff for next week's Marquette-Lafayette district semifinal is at 7 p.m.
Score by Quarters ... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 -- Final
Oakville ................... 7 ... 7 ... 0 ... 0 -- 14
Marquette ............... 0 ... 3 ... 7 ... 6 -- 16
Oakv - Avion Stevenson 64 yard pass from Andrew Oliver (David Chopin kick) -- 24.5 ..... 7-0
Oakv - Derrick Brown 19 yd run (David Chopin kick) -- 5:28 .................... 14-0
Marq - Collin Corley 23 yd field goal -- 16.6 ..................................... 14-3
Marq - Chad Neider 29 yard pass from Austin Powers (Collin Corley kick) -- 8:12 ..... 14-10
Marq - Brad Cruse 35 yd pass from Austin Powers (kick failed) - 1:46 ........ 14-16