Tautologies being what they are, rules are rules but facts are facts.
Sure, by rule, Marion football may have not performed well enough to advance to the postseason. The fact remains, however, that this Warriors team was deserving of a berth. Their exclusion from the tournament reflects a flawed system that apparently isn’t the best way to tease out a champion from a vast, competitive field of participants.
A record of 7-2 is definitely something to take pride in. Only 11 of the 39 teams in 2A won 7 or more games. Sixteen teams from 2A made the regional playoffs, yet the Marion Warriors weren’t one of them.
See where the math doesn’t really add up?
Head coach Grant Thierolf is a history teacher, however, not a math teacher, and he’s seen this before. To his credit, he handled it better than could be expected. His team, battle helmets removed, showed glum faces — the season was over, and they didn’t do well enough.
He corrected that mindset postgame. He told the team he was proud of what they accomplished and that they should be, too.
It’s not like Marion played inferior teams for the purpose of padding its record. Its seven wins were all over 2A opponents, teams that other, playoff-bound teams could receive credit for beating.
The system is what it is. Complaining about it won’t change it — at least, not in a locker room (or a newspaper column, for that matter).
Marion could have been in a different situation, having lost games early, preying on weak district opponents to get in the playoffs despite not being one of the state’s 16 best teams. We would hail them as noble underdogs. We wouldn’t be wrong.
By and large, the system is fair.
Still, the circumstances were hard to process. Marion won the game, but failed in its objective. That doesn’t seem right. The conflict was written on the faces of the Warriors, happy to have beaten the top team in the district, but also confused because it sure felt like they were the top team in the district.
Further complicating matters was the postgame audio. The Warriors after every win salute Thierolf when he makes his way into the locker room with a succession of claps. First win of the season, one clap. Second win, two claps. Friday, no claps were heard.
Meanwhile, the visiting team eventually made its way to its locker room, which shares a wall with the Warriors’ space. It was strange, hearing shouts of jubilation from a team that just lost a game.
Not that Mission Valley didn’t have anything to celebrate — its 2-point margin was narrow enough to keep the district tiebreaker in its favor, as it had beaten Northern Heights the previous week.
Marion has something to celebrate, too — a seven-win season that ended on a victorious note. As for missing the playoffs, it’s an aberration, a weird way to end a year, and a source of motivation going forward.
This year’s Warriors were led by a trio of seniors, a group far fewer in number than those of the teams Marion faced all year long. The group led with all they had, and they knew that, but having so few seniors bodes well for future seasons.
Adam Kjellin, who missed the senior night contest with a knee injury, sported a pair of shoulder pads over his hooded sweatshirt in the locker room.
“I’m not ready to never wear these again,” he said. “It’s sort of just this odd feeling because my entire life has been influenced by playing football.”
“Odd feeling” captures it perfectly. It didn’t deserve to end. But it did end, and suddenly the tautologies get mixed up.
It is what it isn’t. A win is a loss. Fair is unfair.
— ELIOT SILL