MARIETTA, Ohio – On a night designed to honor the history of Don Drumm Stadium, as well as launch a new era of Marietta College football, there was plenty to celebrate by the game's final whistle. The official dedication of the new Don Drumm Stadium was held in conjunction with the annual football alumni day.
The $3.6 million construction and renovation project, made possible by a generous $2.6 million donation from the Joe Chalapty family, has resulted in one of the finest small-college facilities in the Midwest. The project donors were treated to VIP tours of the facility, dinner with Marietta College President Dr. Jean Scott and were honored in a halftime ceremony.
In addition to the stadium dedication, numerous former Pioneers were in attendance for alumni day. Former head coach Joe McDaniel, who coached more MC football games (127) and has the most career victories (67), was one of several honored guests.
Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Jeff Filkovski, the Pioneers kicked off the 115th season in school history with an exciting 32-24 victory over visiting Thiel College. The win marked the 16th time in the last 18 years that Marietta has won their season opener.
In a game that saw the Pioneers lead by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter, the game came down to the final play. Trailing 32-24, the Tomcats took possession on their own 22-yard line with 2:07 remaining in the game.
Thiel sophomore quarterback Jared Soell completed 5-of-7 passes for 47 yards and added 18 yards on a pair of rushes to give the Tomcats a first and goal at the Pioneer three yard line with just three seconds on the clock. Following a time out by Thiel and one by Marietta, junior defensive back Louis DiPaolo broke up Soell's pass intended for Nate Houpt to secure the Pioneer win and cap a near perfect night for Marietta College football.
Finding a replacement for All-Ohio Athletic Conference wide receiver Cory Kriechbaum was one of the bigger questions MC had to answer heading into 2011. With 11 receptions for 116 yards and three touchdowns, sophomore Kirby Harris has staked his claim to that role. Harris scored on catches of 23, 6, and 32 yards.
The Tomcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on a 30-yard field goal by freshman Cody McClelland with 4:55 left in the first quarter. The Pioneers quickly responded taking a 6-3 lead on Harris' 23-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Andrew Keller with 1:37 remaining in the first.
Harris and Keller would hook up again, for 6 yards this time, at the 10:38 mark of the second period. A 36-yard field goal by senior Nathan Zarnoski with 31 seconds left in the half gave Marietta a 16-3 lead at the break.
With under seven minutes left in the third, Keller was forced to leave the game after sustaining a shoulder injury. He ended the night 18-of-28 for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Filkovski turned to experienced backup Kyle Shackle to finish the game under center. Shackle didn't miss a beat completing 10-of-17 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He hooked up with Harris on a 32-yard score and hit junior Alex Fountain on a 4-yard TD giving MC its biggest lead, 29-10, with 8:50 left in the game.
Soell brought the Tomcats roaring back with a pair of touchdown passes to Houpt cutting the lead to five, 29-24, at the 5:46 mark.
A 19-yard kick return by junior Chad Walker gave the Pioneers good field position. Shackle connected on his first two pass attempts of the drive, including a 32-yarder to sophomore Tannon Roberts that put the ball on the Thiel 18-yard line. Three straight rushes gained seven yards and Zarnoski connected on the 29-yard field goal to set-up the thrilling finish.
Soell rushed for 128 yards and completed 18-of-34 passes for 149 yards and three scores. Defensively, juniors Marshuan Hainesworth and Ethan Ludwig led the Tomcats with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively.
Junior Tevin Dones was Marietta's leading rusher with 57 yards on 14 carries. Fellow classmate Kadeem Corbin had a team-high eight tackles for the Pioneers including a sack for nine yards.
The Pioneers will take next week off before opening OAC play on Saturday, September 17th at Muskingum University. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.