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Klein wants to build Marquette football program step by step

Marquette coach Matt Klein picked up the first win in his Mustangs career and he hopes for many more to come as he builds the program.

Klein, who was hired from Knob Noster in mid-Missouri, has the Mustangs off to a 1-1 start.

Marquette dropped the season opener at home 31-7 to a strong Ritenour squad. However, Marquette bounced back last year to score a 50-13 win over Northwest on the road.

“Well, no doubt any time you get a win no matter what happens or how it happens, it’s a good thing,” Klein said. “I’m really happy for our kids.”

Klein noted his Mustangs were not dismayed about losing the opener. Everyone knew mistakes were made and those errors were correctable.

“Obviously, it’s early in the season. There’s no need to get down after one game,” Klein said. “There were a lot of things we felt like we didn’t do well against Ritenour. But we felt they were all very fixable things. What it came down to is we blocked and tackled better in the second week.

“We played with high effort. You can control that and playing with high effort leads to good things. We kept a normal routine in practice last week. It was an interesting week with the weather being so hot and having rain. We just took a deep breath and played at a high level against Northwest.”

Quarterback Justin Powers competed 6 of 8 passes for 58 yards. But it was the running attack that carried Marquette. The Mustangs ground out 356 yards rush. Charles Turner led the way with 143 yards on 10 carries. Jack Whitworth added 92 yards on six carries. Jacobi Boykin contributed 68 yards on 11 carries.

The game didn’t start well for Marquette.

“Right off the bat, we ran two plays on offense and on the second play we fumbled,” Klein said.

Northwest took a 7-0 lead. Then, a blocked punt got the Mustangs going.

“Their punt hit their guy in the back,” Klein said. “We felt like our pressure caused it. We went and punched it in and then we scored 36 straight points.”

Klein is excited to be at Marquette. He comes from Eldon. His father was a teacher and a coach at Eldon for 28 years. Klein was an assistant coach at Pleasant Hill, which is south of Kansas City for five years.

“I loved my time there,” Klein said. “Then I left and was the head coach at Knob Noster.”

When he learned about the opening at Marquette, he pursued it and got it. He was selected out of 44 candidates to replace Ryan Thornhill, who resigned after last season. Thornhill held the job for seven years.

Marquette Principal Greg Mathison and Athletic Director Shane Matzen narrowed the candidates down to six semifinalists.

They and additional staff later evaluated three finalists before settling on Klein.

“We were looking for someone enthusiastic and with experience, a great teacher, leader and communicator, who was able to work with an entire football program for those in grades 5 to 12,” Mathison said at a school board meeting last winter. “The No. 1 thing we were looking for was a passion for kids. And (Klein) met those criteria.”

Klein is happy to be at Marquette.

“No doubt I think it’s an outstanding school,” Klein said. “There’s tons of possibility with the football program. We have to tap into it. It can be a very good program. I think we can get there.

“It’s been good so far no doubt. Kids are kids. We have to find the right things to motivate them. It’s going fine. I’ve getting a lot of good support. It’s a step by step process. We think we’re heading in the right direction.”

The Mustangs have a tough test at 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 5). Marquette entertains Jackson, a Class 5 squad. The Fighting Indians are 2-0. Jackson opened with a 62-34 win over Battle and then defeated Vianney 30-23.

Jackson has an excellent quarterback in senior Dante Vandeven. The defense is led by senior middle linebacker Joshua Stone.

“They have a really good football team,” Klein said. “They have a senior-loaded team. They have good leadership. They have an outstanding quarterback who spreads the ball around. Their middle linebacker is really good and physical.

“It will be a huge test for us. It’s a big challenge for our kids. But to get to high places, you have to play good teams and see where you’re at.”

For Marquette to prevail, Klein said the Mustangs must run the ball effectively.

“Our offensive time of possession has to be at a high level,” Marquette said. “We have to score some points. They will get their big plays and we have to try and keep them down as much as possible. We have to tackle in space and not turn the football over.

“When you play a really good football team, your room for error goes down.”

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