Marquette's Liam Dougherty (right) runs down Hiawatha's Austin Brantley on a kick return during the Crusaders' Week 3 win over the Hawks last season in Ottawa.
Marquette's Liam Dougherty (right) runs down Hiawatha's Austin Brantley on a kick return during the Crusaders' Week 3 win over the Hawks last season in Ottawa. — Shaile

There are a lot of Class 1A football programs who can lay claim to the “small but mighty” slogan, including the Marquette Academy squad which remains ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press poll.

But there are not many programs that can say they’re doing so much with so little as tiny Kirkland Hiawatha.

The Hawks, with now only 20 players (just six of them seniors, but very good seniors) in the entire program, appear well on the way to their third playoff appearance in the last four seasons thanks to a pair of convincing wins by the kind of numbers that would make even Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes blush.

And they will be looking to make it three in a row when they host the Crusaders in their Northeastern Athletic Conference opener in Kirkland at 7 p.m. Friday.

Using mostly a varied single-wing attack, Hiawatha in Week 1 walloped downstate Madison 61-18 at home behind 14 carries for 145 yards and four touchdowns and a punt return TD from senior back Kyle Thompson. Nearly all the rest came from Ty Kilcullen, the former QB-now SE/DB/K who had two TDs, one off an interception.

Each of the two Hawks stars collected four scores last week in a 55-7 romp over 2A Westmont, and they’ll be looking to add to their collective 116-25 scoring differential — and the sixth-most points scored by any team in the state thus far — this week in the first of two meetings with MA this season.

“Hiawatha’s riding high right now,” said Marquette coach Tom Jobst, whose program has outscored the Hawks 295-35 in their seven NAC meetings to date. “They’ve got two big wins, a lot of offensive production, good defense, some size, they’re solid with good athletes. They were feeling good about themselves coming into the season, and now they’ve shown they can really do some things. It’s going to be a tough game.

“I can say this not having seen the other teams, only their scores, but Hiawatha is most likely the top contender in the conference, so I’m sure they’re looking at this as a conference championship game.

"We have to be ready.”

The Cru, meanwhile, are coming off a pair of impressive victories of their own — 40-14 over Dwight and 21-13 over Seneca — but got a little banged up along the way. That includes quarterback Jay Scott, who has been terrific throwing the ball so far (9-for-17, 161 yards, 4 TDs) but was hit on his left knee late last Friday. He returned to the game for the final series, but his status this week may still be up in the air.

If he’s not 100 percent, it would put even more responsibility on the shoulders of fullback Preston Aukland (22-for-180 yards) and the speed of halfback Luke Couch (18-for-178, 3 TDs).

Hiawatha coach Jason Keneway feels MA will be so tough to stop, he’s hoping his team’s offense will move the ball enough to keep the Cru offense off the field.

“I have to say our jaws hit the floor when on film we saw them run some shotgun snaps. First time we’ve seen that, so they do have a couple of tricks up their sleeves,” said Keneway. “But they’re still Marquette, and as long as Tom is there they’re still gonna be Marquette. They play very physical football. They run the heck out of that winged-T, and they’re very disciplined always. They’re not gonna change. They do what they do and just dare you to stop it.

“Marquette is a playoff-caliber team, for sure, and it’s great to have a good test like this early in the season to see where we’re really at. The kids have done well so far, but they’re all in for Friday, too.”

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Marquette Crusaders (2-0, 0-0) at Hiawatha Hawks (2-0, 0-0)

Kickoff: Friday at 7 p.m. in Kirkland

Last matchup: Marquette 35, Hiawatha 0 (2018)

FND pick: Marquette