Marion Warriors whip Sterling Bears
One week after being blanked by a good Hutch Trinity team in a game where little went right, rookie Warrior football coach Shaun Craft did some switching around Friday night against the wounded, visiting Sterling Black Bears.
Adjustments to an offensive line, which had only paved the way for a modest 132 yards a week ago, and to the defensive line, did the trick this time.
The Warriors used a short field the first half and improved play to crush the Black Bears, 36-13 for both Marion as well as Craft’s first victory.
“We made some position changes and tried to work around that a bit,” Craft said. “They came off the ball a lot harder this week and they were more clear on assignments, which was an issue last week.
“The blocking on the perimeter was better, but we’ve still got some things to work on there, but it was better. We tried to spread the ball around and everybody stepped up tonight.”
That perimeter blocking opened the door for 201 yards on the ground, including a career-team high 109 from Colton Mercer, who added an 83-yard sweep around the left for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Already riddled with injuries from a blowout a week earlier to Ell-Saline, Sterling lost its second string quarterback Conan Ball early in the first quarter, throwing freshman Zach Surface into the fire.
Field position complicated the game more for Sterling also, with the Black Bears starting no closer the first half than their own 36- yard line.
Never starting any further than the Sterling 40 the first half, Marion used a 26-yard completion from quarterback Chase Stringer to Mercer and 19-yard run by Evann Heidebrecht for a first and goal at the 3.
Three plays later, Stringer punched it in from the 2 and hooked up with Mercer on the two-point conversion to put Marion ahead, 8-0 with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Black Bears wasted no time responding on the kickoff with Alan Anderson returning it 83 yards and pull to 8-7 11 seconds later.
The return would be the last and only touchdown the Warrior defense allowed until the game had been sealed, keeping Sterling from crossing midfield until late in the third quarter.
Marion still gave up 238 total yards, though, with 193 coming on the ground, and a game-high 160 from workhorse Gage Farney on 27 carries.
The Warriors stretched their lead to 22-7 by halftime off a 5-yard quarterback keeper by Stringer, and Stringer going long to Sam Zinn for a 33-yard touchdown with 6:28 left in the first half.
Despite throwing for one touchdown on 5-of-10 passing for 68 yards, Stringer only mustered 1 yard on nine carries, but two scores.
The Warriors kept their foot on the gas with their roughest starting point so far on the first drive of the second half—the Marion 37.
Heidebrecht added 11 carries for 81 yards, including a 16-yard gain to set the Warriors up with a first-and-goal at the 8.
Facing a third and three, Heidebrecht barreled in to boost Sterling’s deficit, 28-7, just 3:03 into the second half.
Mercer’s 83 yard score made for the entirety with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
Noah Kukuk scored on the two-point conversion to cap Marion’s scoring.
Sterling scored its only offensive touchdown with 2:05 left, a 23-yard run by Farney against the Warrior reserves.
“I hope we can build off this and keep it going,” Craft said of the win. “They’re (Sterling) a younger, inexperienced team and we wanted to take advantage of that.”
Last modified Sept. 13, 2018