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Mayo a decided favorite as it sets to play JM

John Marshall will be attempting to beat Mayo in football for the first time since 2015 when the teams meet on Friday at JM.

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The Mayo student section cheers on its team during a high school football game against Century on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Mayo beat Century 42-0. This week, Mayo takes on John Marshall. Post Bulletin file photo / Joe Ahlquist

MAYO at JOHN MARSHALL

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Records: Mayo is 3-0 in the Big Southeast Red and overall. JM is 1-2, 1-2.

Last meeting: Mayo beat JM 26-12 last season.

Last game: Mayo blitzed Century 42-0 and JM lost 31-7 to Northfield.

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Mayo notes: The Spartans are certainly living up to their advanced billing. Mayo has done it by getting off to a 3-0 start and outscoring its opponents by a combined 149-53. That means the Spartans are averaging 50 points per game. It’s the lethal mix of an electric passing game with an electric running game that’s done it. Strong-armed quarterback Bennett Ellsworth has already thrown for 753 yard and seven touchdowns, with the Holcomb brothers — senior Cayden and sophomore Carter — the two primary targets. Star senior running back Noah Smith has rushed for 356 yards, including a 188-yard game against Owatonna. Mayo’s defense is shoring up now, too, having pitched a shutout against Century. The Spartans have owned JM in recent years. Mayo hasn’t lost to JM since 2015, when the Rockets beat them twice.

John Marshall notes: JM thought it had momentum as it headed into last week’s game with Northfield, having just impressed with its speed and execution in a 32-12 win against Austin. But the Rockets couldn’t sustain things against Northfield in losing 31-7. Execution was the biggest problem, with dropped passes and other mistakes. More trouble resulted from the game, too, with a number of JM players getting banged up. The contest did see the return of junior speedster Keondre Bryant, who played with a large cast on an arm that he’d broken. Bryant lined up at defensive back. The Rockets know they’ll have their hands full with Mayo and all of its offensive weapons. JM’s greatest strength is its speed. The trouble is, Mayo has just as much speed as the Rockets, plus everything else.

Mayo coach Donny Holcomb says: “I haven’t had to worry about how our team has prepared itself this season, or what frame of mind our players are in. Plus, I’ve been pleased that our execution has been better than it's ever been. Our kids have played a bunch and have put in a lot of time. With JM, it has some speedy guys and we have to make sure our tackling is better than it’s been.”

JM coach Kevin Kirkeby says: “Mayo has really good team speed, they don’t make a lot of mistakes and they cause you to make mistakes. They execute nicely on offense, with a balance of run to pass. They take what you give them and then they exploit it. On defense, their front four are strong and aggressive. What we have to do is eliminate mistakes. The last time we played Mayo, we shot ourselves in the foot with fumbles and interceptions.”

— Pat Ruff • Post Bulletin

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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