Ill winds blew through Warrior Stadium Friday night, as Trinity Catholic of Hutchinson took advantage of field position and ball control to hand the Marion High School Warriors their second consecutive loss, 21-0.
Game time winds gusting to 30 mph heightened the importance of the pre-game coin flip, and winning it gave the visiting Celtics an immediate advantage.
“We had a little trepidation going in — do we choose to receive, do we choose to kick, do we choose the wind?” Marion head coach Grant Thierolf said.
“By not winning the flip they forced our hand,” Thierolf said.
Marion chose to receive, and started with the ball on the Warrior 20 after Trinity Catholic’s kick with the wind was unreturnable.
It wasn’t the wind that sent Marion backward on their first play from scrimmage, but a fumbled snap by Cole Lewman that was recovered by Marion at the 12.
Facing fourth-and-17 from the Marion 13, Lewman punted against the wind to the Marion 35, where Celtic Austin Rea fielded the kick and ran it back to the Marion 25.
Trinity Catholic needed only four plays to score on a 6-yard Rea touchdown run at the 8 minute, 35 second mark of the first quarter, and Spencer Truman’s extra point put the Celtics up, 7-0.
Marion nearly answered on the ensuing kickoff when Colten Johnson bolted down the middle of the field, swerved left, and ran all the way to the Trinity 14 before being pulled down from behind.
The Warriors immediately squandered their opportunity, coughing up the football on the first play of the drive, with Caleb Brenning recovering for the Celtics.
Wind and field position came into play again when the Trinity Catholic drive stalled at their own 34. Celtic Ivan Guerrero boomed a punt with the wind that with a favorable roll ended up 66 yards away in the Warrior end zone.
Marion managed only four yards from its own 20, and Trinity Catholic took over in Marion territory at the 48 following a Lewman punt.
Facing third-and-6 at the Marion 44, Celtic quarterback Holden Thielen spotted receiver Christian Christenson streaking down the left sideline, covered by Warrior James Jones.
Jones got a hand on the ball and batted it into the air, but Christenson adjusted quickly, gathered in the deflected pass, and raced to the end zone. Truman tacked on another extra point, and the Celtics led, 14-0, with 2:21 remaining in the first quarter.
From that point forward the teams settled into a defensive struggle, with neither team able to mount a serious scoring threat until late in the fourth quarter.
“After the first quarter we started getting a feel for what they were doing a little bit, and we were at least able to hold the tide,” Thierolf said.
Trinity Catholic gained excellent field position once again by recovering a Marion fumble at the Warrior 30-yard line with 7:46 remaining in the game. Six plays later, Rea scored his second touchdown, a 4-yard run, and the Truman PAT gave the Celtics a 21-0 lead.
Marion’s hopes for a miracle comeback were ignited on the next possession when Taylor Heidebrecht hooked up with Jacob Harper on a 47-yard pass that took the ball to the Celtic 19. Marion failed to capitalize on the opportunity when a Lewman pass attempt to Harper fell incomplete on fourth-and-8 from the Celtic 8.
“If we could have gotten a couple of first downs, make them work a little bit harder for that first touchdown, it may have changed some things a bit,” Thierolf said.
“We just could never put together a good drive and when we did get the ball in scoring position we couldn’t capitalize on it or we had a turnover,” he continued.
“I don’t think we ever once established dominance on the offensive or defensive lines,” Thierolf said. “I thought by and large the game was won up front by Trinity. Our kids played hard, but they were just a little more physical.”
Statistics for time of possession and total yards support Thierolf’s assessment.
The Celtic offense controlled the ball for 31 minutes of the 48-minute contest, limiting Marion to just 17 minutes on offense. Trinity Catholic rolled up 261 yards of total offense, 210 yards on the ground, while Marion had only 168 yards, their lowest output of the season.
Johnson was the workhorse on the ground for Marion, gaining 119 yards on 21 carries. No other Warrior made it into double-figures. Lewman completed one of 12 passes for 6 yards, the only completion other than Heidebrecht’s. Harper accounted for all 53 of Marion’s receiving yards.
Linbacker Brody Carroll led the Warriors in total tackles with 13, and defensive back Lewman tallied 7, an indication of Trinity Catholic’s control of the line of scrimmage.
The loss drops Marion’s record to 4-2 as they head into district play Friday at home against Remington. Game time is 7 p.m.
“Everybody in the state right now is 0-0, that’s the great thing about next week — the season starts anew,” Thierolf said.