By Steve Gunn and Jason Goorman
The Marquette football team got a pretty good idea last Saturday, when Martinez lit up the field and the scoreboard in just two quarters, leading the No. 1 ranked Muskegon Big Reds to a huge 69-7 victory in their Division 3 playoff opener at Grand Haven High School.
The senior quarterback ran for a mind-boggling 293 yards and seven touchdowns – all before halftime – giving the Big Reds an insurmountable 48-7 lead at the break.
He had touchdown runs of 3, 8 and 4 yards in the first quarter, and for most players that would have been a real nice game. But Martinez saved the real magic for the second quarter, adding scoring bursts of 21, 31, 87 and 10 yards.
Martinez only played one down of the second half, and did not carry the ball, but apparently his magic was contagious. He handed off to Robert Gee Jr., who promptly broke loose for a 71-yard touchdown.
Martinez, who’s had a ton of big-yardage and multi-touchdown games in his four years of varsity football, admitted he “never had a half like that.”
“It was exciting,” he told LocalSportsJournal.com after practice earlier this week. “I really didn’t know what to expect going into the game. My only focus is winning and whatever that takes to do it.
“A lot of what (the Marquette defense) gave us led to me being able to do what I had to do. So it was a lot of good looks, and credit my offensive line and my outside guys too, for blocking and leading the way.”
Muskegon Coach Shane Fairfield admitted that he’s never seen an offensive performance like that in one half of a football game. But he didn’t seem too shocked, because he knows what his explosive QB can do.
“It’s just him firing it up,” Fairfield said. “It’s playoff time, it’s go time, and he just reached another level. He just has a lot of those ‘it’ factors. He’s special.”
The bottom line is that Martinez is super-motivated and hyper-focused at the moment, which should cause great concern for upcoming opponents, starting on Saturday when the Big Reds host Cedar Springs in a district championship game at Grand Haven at 1 p.m.
He learned what it was like to win a state championship as a freshman, when he quarterbacked Muskegon Catholic Central to a Division 8 title. His goal at the time was to repeat that feat every year of high school, but it hasn’t worked out.
His MCC team lost in the regional round of the playoffs in his sophomore season. Then last year, his first at Muskegon, the Big Reds were stunned in the Division 3 finals by Detroit Martin Luther King, a team they had beaten in the regular season.
The 2019 playoffs are Martinez’ final opportunity to relive his freshman glory, and become one of those rare athletes who quarterbacks state championship teams at two different schools.
He likes that idea very much.
“I think it would be really good,” he said about winning another state title in a different uniform. “My whole plan was to win a state championship all four years of my high school career. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. But I have another chance and I’m excited. “
Martinez admits he still feels the sting of last year’s painful loss in the state finals, when the Big Reds fell to Detroit King 41-25 after only training 21-17 after three quarters.
“When you’re that close, and even just a couple of possessions away from winning that game, you learn a lot,” he said. “You know what you want to do the next time. I am fortunate enough to get another year of it.
“I’m more motivated than ever. There’s a lot riding on this. We know what we need to do, we know what’s expected, we can’t have any problems, just keep moving forward and stay locked in.”
Cedar Springs coaches may be thinking that if they can somehow contain Martinez on Saturday, they can keep the Big Reds from piling up the points. After all, he has 1,376 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground, and 954 yards and nine touchdowns through the air. Take that away, and what do the Big Reds have left?
The answer is plenty, because Muskegon has diversified its running game over the season, distributing the ball to several different backs, including six who have at least 100 yards rushing.
They are Tommy Watts (599 yards), Japrie Henderson (355), Amari Crowley (239), Gee (206), Jacarri Kitchen (163) and Bryan Stinson (104).
That multi-headed attack has taken some pressure off Martinez, and added stress to the lives of opponents.
“Our diversity has been a lot of the problem for a lot of teams that have tried to stop us,” Martinez said. “If we can keep that going, keeping the pressure spread around for the game plan, it will make us even more explosive.”
THIS WEEKEND’S DISTRICT FINALS
Grand Haven at Hudsonville, 7 p.m.
Midland Dow at Mona Shores, 7 p.m.
Ravenna at Montague, 7 p.m.
Kent City at Pewamo Westphalia, 7 p.m.
Cedar Springs vs. Muskegon at Grand Haven, 1 p.m.
Oakridge at Kingsley, 1 p.m.