Riley Gebelein heard the whispers on the sideline during the third quarter last Friday night, so he knew something was up.
Marshfield’s senior running back just wasn’t quite sure about the topic of conversation.
Gebelein eventually learned he was on the cusp of making school history, and he needed just three more carries to set the single-game record with 267 yards.
The previous mark of 259 yards stood for 15 years and was established by Chad Frederic in 1997. He set the record in a playoff victory over D.C. Everest.
“I think it’s surprising the record stood for that long with all the great running backs we’ve had here,” said Gebelein, who needed 24 carries to reach the milestone. “That night it (the record) didn’t really hit me, but after a couple days it was a Cloud 9 type of thing. I was like, ‘Wow, I set a school record.'”
Marshfield coach Denny Goettl was ready to take his starters out of the game in the third quarter after building a comfortable cushion in a 39-14 manhandling of Neenah.
Then he heard a voice in his headset from an assistant coach in the press box informing the head coach Gebelein was getting close to doing something special.
Reluctant to go against his coaching philosophy of keeping his starters in with a game well in hand, and hesitant to risk injury to his starters, Goettl figured Gebelein deserved a chance at the record.
“He told me Riley was 20 yards away from the record, and I was like, ‘Holy crap, really?’ I sent them (the starters) out for there for another series, and didn’t tell him (Gebelein) anything at all,” Goettl said. “I think he needed like three or four runs to get it (the record).”
Gebelein, who just returned to full-time duty after nursing a leg injury suffered on the opening kickoff of the season, had an inkling he was having a pretty decent game against the Rockets.
It was clear Gebelein was in for a special night when he exploed in the first half with touchdown runs of 74 and 61 yards, respectively, in the first half. He would also find the end zone from 5 and 2 yards out to finish with four touchdowns.
The 5-foot-8, 164-pound scatback just didn’t realize he was on the brink of accomplishing something truly special.
“During the game you kind of have a mental tally of how many yards you have. I knew I was having a pretty good game, especially with the two long touchdown runs,” Gebelein said. “I figured at halftime I had about 180 yards, but that slipped my mind and you just have to go out and play.”
Much of the credit goes offensive line – guards Nick Thornton, Nate Borchardt and Andy Whittman, center Jeff Bailey, tackles Triston Wilson and Brad Schroeder, along with tight end Kane Seubert – who turned the Neenah defense into Swiss cheese, opening sizable holes all night.
No one has to tell Gebelein the record also belongs to the guys in front of him opening up the holes just as much as him. He heaped all sorts of praise on the linemen in front of him.
“I’m very thankful to the guys blocking in front of me. I knew we could get this (the record) with how the guys were blocking so great all day. It shows how well they were working together and blocking,” Gebelein said.
His coach even went as far as to suggest Gebelein might want to treat the guys doing all the dirty work in the trenches to some Snickers bars.
The running back plans to go above and beyond some candy, however.
“I’m going to take them out for a steak and shrimp buffet at the Belvedere (Supper Club),” he said.
Goettl was quick to point out that Frederic’s longstanding record isn’t all that surprising considering how the Tigers like to employ a balanced run-pass attack.
The coach also wasn’t surprised Gebelein was the running back in a long litany of talented runners at the school to rewrite the Tigers’ record book. Or that he deflected much of the credit to his blockers.
His elusive running style which often enables Gebelein to leave tacklers grabbing at air enables him to turn average runs into game-breaking highlight reel material.
“That’s just the kind of kid he is,” said Goettl of treating his linemen to a buffet. “Riley is a tenacious runner and his style lends itself to people thinking they have him bottled up and then he can make something happen.”
Next up for the Tigers is a date with Oshkosh West this Friday night.
So is there any pressure to repeat, or improve on a record-setting performance?
“I really don’t care about individual stuff. My main goal is to keep winning and get a conference championship and go from there,” Gebelein said.