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Marion defense shines with Palic’s return

Staff writer

The Marion Warriors combined their best defensive effort of the season with a strong running attack in the middle two quarters of the game to overcome a slow start against the Remington Broncos on Friday.

Bolstered by the return of senior linebacker Tyler Palic, Marion’s defense opened the game with two straight three-and-outs.

Remington’s offense never crossed the goal line as Marion’s defense held Remington to a 45-yard field goal, forced four three-and-outs, a fumble, and an interception in the first half, setting the tone for a dominating first half.

Marion took advantage on its second offensive possession with three consecutive first-down runs before senior running back Kolton Brewer punched the ball into the end zone on the fourth — his first career touchdown. Senior quarterback Chase Stringer added two points on a conversion run.

The Broncos responded with their only score of the night, a long field goal against a 16 mph crosswind from the 28-yard line.

The Broncos worked their way into the red zone later in the game, but could never break through the Warrior defense for another score.

Both teams turned the ball over on fumbles before the Warrior defense forced another three-and-out. The offense answered by going 63 yards in four plays, scoring on a junior running back Evann Heidebrecht touchdown from 23 yards out.

Palic played for the first time since an injury sidelined him in the season’s first game. He stopped one Broncos drive with an interception at the Marion 5-yard line that he returned 51 yards.

“I think having Tyler Palic back gives our kids a little bit of confidence,” head coach Grant Thierolf said. “We’ve had a lot of kids play well in Tyler’s place, but just having your all-league linebacker back is a big thing.”

Injuries have been a hurdle for the Warriors.

“We’ve only played three healthy snaps all year long with our projected starters in there — the first three of the season,” Thierolf said.

Senior running back and defensive back Corbin Wheeler did not play. Thierolf said Brewer and Heidebrecht filled in well for Wheeler on offense, adding that Wheeler will be available next week.

Up 14-3, the Warriors never looked back after Palic’s interception. A Schneider run, Stringer pass to Stuchlik, and Heidebrecht run put the Warriors up 20-3 with 2:31 left in the first half.

The Marion defense forced a fourth three-and-out, and the offense needed 46 of the remaining 90 seconds in the half to go 59 yards in four plays, capped by a Schneider touchdown run. The Warriors entered halftime up 26-3.

Marion opened the second half with an 11-play, 64-yard pounding running attack that took 5 minutes and was capped by a Schneider touchdown. Brewer added two to make it 34-3.

The defense forced a Remington punt six plays later, but Marion’s drive started with an illegal substitution penalty, putting the Warriors at their own five yard line. Three plays and 95 yards later, Schneider crossed the goal line to make it 40-3. A 60-yard run by Stringer highlighted the drive.

With a running clock triggered and Marion playing several backups, neither team scored again.

Warriors runners averaged 9.9 yards per carry in the game, going 415 yards on 42 carries. Schneider led the way with 176 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.

Marion went two for six on extra point attempts for the game and saw three offensive drives end in scoring position, two on turnovers on downs and one on a fumble.

“We just didn’t execute as well as we needed to,” Thierolf said. “It’s something that we know that we need to do. Our two-point plays aren’t as solid as we need them to be. We just need to execute better within that short-yardage frame.”

Last modified Sept. 27, 2017

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