MARIETTA - It doesn't get any easier for the Marietta College football team this week.
After giving up a team-record 84 points in a loss to Mount Union last week, the Pioneers (0-3 overall, 0-2 Ohio Athletic Conference) will now be challenged by Heidelberg (3-0, 2-0), which features the top scoring offense in the OAC, at 7 p.m. Saturday at Don Drumm Stadium.
"They're a very physical team," said MC head coach Andy Waddle. "They have a tremendous offensive line, a great running back and a quarterback who's a very solid player. They've been able to push the ball down the field."
Cartel Brooks will power the ground game for the Student Princes. Brooks has carried the ball 32 times this season for 331 yards, a 10.3 yards-per-carry average. When Brooks has needed a breather, Heidelberg hasn't lost much production, as Bryan Lacey has rushed for 182 yards on 24 carries, a 7.2 average. The two have reached the end zone a combined nine times.
It will be an interesting matchup for Marietta linebackers Jake Hammer and Daryl DeWindt, who are first and third respectively on the team in tackles.
Marietta's secondary also faces the tall order of stopping Heidelberg quarterback Michael Mees, who has completed 33-of-49 pass attempts for 786 yards and nine touchdowns. Mees has limited mistakes, throwing just two interceptions in three games.
Mees' top target has been Donteea Dye, who has caught 11 passes for 338 yards and four scores.
"We're going to have to play much better on defense than we have been," Waddle said.
Offensively for Marietta, Tom Fulton will make his third start at quarterback. Fulton leads the sixth-best passing attack in the OAC, having completed 44-of-84 pass attempts for 451 yards. He has thrown for three touchdowns and two picks.
Tight end Josh Llaneza leads the Pios in receiving yards with 195 on 17 receptions. Receiver Kirby Harris has 191 yards on 20 catches, but has not reached the end zone yet.
Marietta will look to get Tannon Roberts more involved in the passing game. The senior wide-out has caught just seven balls for 52 yards so far.
The majority of Marietta's offensive success thus far has come in the running game. After having the worst ground game in the conference last season, running backs Tim Conner and Patrick Lewis have stepped up and provided the Pioneers with a respectable one-two punch.
Conner has 199 yards on 51 carries while Lewis has 119 yards on 29 rushes.
"We'll continue to try and bring balance on offense," Waddle said.
The first half will be pivotal for the Pioneers, as far as getting out to a good start and setting the tone.
Heidelberg has scored 52, 55 and 66 points in its first three contests, with the majority of those points coming in the first half, Waddle pointed out.
If the Pios can keep it close going into halftime, it could be a toss-up in the second half.