Long after the Marion High School Warriors’ 34-18 loss Friday to the Sedgwick Cardinals becomes just another mark in loss column, fans will still be talking about Colten Johnson’s electrifying 52-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first half.
“You’re not going to see anything at any level better than that run,” Marion head coach Grant Thierolf said.
Marion trailed 14-12 when a defensive stand forced a punt that gave the ball back to the offense on the Marion 48 with only 1.9 seconds left in the half. Many fans had started moving toward the concession stand when Johnson got his hands on the ball.
Charging toward the left sideline, Johnson made a hard cut up the sideline as Cardinals flew in to stop him. Johnson wove his way through a group of would-be tacklers near the 30- yard line, then cut back toward the middle of the field to finish off the stunning score that gave Marion an 18-14 halftime advantage.
“Special players make special plays, and he’s a special player,” Thierolf said.
“Everybody keys on him, everybody knows he’s going to be getting the ball, and he still makes plays,” Thierolf said. “It was just a big-time run.”
Johnson had a big-time night rushing overall, amassing 227 yards on 25 attempts.
Marion opened the scoring in the first quarter with a big-time touchdown drive of 95 yards. The Warriors spread the ball around, with Johnson, Brody Carroll, and Taylor Heidebrecht getting touches, including two pass receptions by Heidebrecht.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Sedgwick 11, Cole Lewman appeared to be momentarily stopped before breaking loose and dashing around right end for the score and a 6-0 Marion lead. The conversion attempt failed.
Three plays later, the Warriors got the ball back when Jacob Harper intercepted the Cardinals’ Trent Stucky at the Marion 44.
Marion moved quickly into Cardinals territory when Heidebrecht ripped away a Lewman pass from a Sedgwick defender as they fell to the turf at the Cardinals 34. Another Lewman pass on fourth-and-6 fell incomplete, but a pass interference call gave Marion a first down at the Sedgwick 15.
Two plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, Johnson carried the ball into the end zone for a 12-0 Warrior lead.
From that point forward, Sedgwick came roaring back to outscore the Warriors 34 – 6 the rest of the way.
Sedgwick needed only one minute, 48 seconds to score their first touchdown on a drive that featured nothing but passes from Stucky to Josh Locke and Daniel Vogt. Locke hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass, and the point after narrowed the Warrior lead to 12-7.
The Cardinals took a 14-12 lead after Stucky froze the Marion secondary with a fake and looped the ball over the defense to a streaking Vogt for a 22-yard scoring play.
James Jones covered a Sedgwick onside kick for the Warriors to start the second half, and Marion appeared poised to build on their lead before the drive came to a halt at the Sedgwick 10.
Marion fans breathed a sigh of relief when an 80-yard touchdown run by the Cardinals’ Dalton Brandt was nullified due to a holding penalty against Sedgwick.
Two plays later, Stucky tossed the ball to Elliot Money in the right flat, and the Warriors appeared in position to stop him for no gain. But Money stopped, turned, and threw the ball downfield to Vogt, who caught the ball in stride along the sideline and blazed the rest of the way for an 80-yard touchdown. Sedgwick led 20-18 after the conversion attempt failed.
“The halfback pass they completed we just can’t let that happen,” Thierolf said.
Marion controlled the ball for the final five minutes of the third quarter, but was forced to punt from the Sedgwick 40. Lewman averted disaster when he recovered a snap that sailed over his head and kicked the ball down to the Sedgwick 11.
It turned out it was only disaster delayed. Brandt, who had an 80-yard touchdown nullified earlier, took the ball off the right side and dashed 89 yards for the touchdown. The PAT made the score 27-18.
“The 90 yard run was just a dagger – it just really took the wind out of our sails,” Thierolf said. “We talked about not giving up the big play and unfortunately we gave up a couple of them.”
Sedgwick scored once more on a Stucky-to-Locke 2-yard touchdown pass, and the PAT was good to account for the 34-18 margin.
“That’s the best football team we’ve played this year,” Thierolf said. “I thought we were aggressive right off the bat; we didn’t take the opportunity to finish it off and play well in the third quarter.”
Lewman gained 68 yards on 19 rushing attempts, and completed 5 of 7 passes for 53 yards. Carroll had 10 yards rushing, and Heidebrecht added 9.
Heidebrecht pulled in four of Lewman’s passes for 47 yards, and Carroll caught one for 6.
Spencer Fugitt led the team defensively with 10 total tackles, and Cory Hiebert had 9.
The loss drops the Warriors’ record to 4-1 on the season. Marion will host Trinity Catholic at 7 p.m. Friday at Marion Stadium.