Chalk one up for the Marion Warriors scout team.
Player after player said the same thing Friday after Marion’s dominating 44-14 win against Sterling: The Warriors knew what the Black Bears were going to do and they were ready.
“That’s probably the team we studied the most on so far,” lineman Jarret McLinden said. “We were just ready to play. We were more prepared than they were.”
Sterling averaged 47 points a game coming into the contest, but the Warriors held the high-flying Black Bears offense to just one touchdown.
“We went over that all week in practice,” linebacker Tyler Palic said.
The Warriors study game films, but that’s no substitute for running against the opposition’s plays in practice, coach Grant Thierolf said.
“It all starts with our young kids,” he said. “They get the inglorious position of running the other team’s plays and other team’s defenses and they give us a great picture of what the opposition is doing.
“They just kind of take it that this is their job on the team, and they realize they help us win when they do it well.”
Thierolf mixes in some varsity players into the practice scenarios, and simulating game conditions as closely as possible paid off big Friday night.
“That only happens if your scout team kids take it seriously and do a great job, and our kids do,” he said.
Sterling took the opening kick and marched methodically downfield to the Marion 21-yard line, but Mason Pederson snuffed out the drive with a third-down interception at the Marion 4.
The Warriors responded by driving the length of the field, with quarterback Jack Schneider darting 25 yards for the first score of the game and a 6-0 Marion lead at 4 minutes, 31 seconds in the first quarter.
“That first drive gave us some momentum, and we knew we could do it all night,” Thierolf said.
Schneider proved his coach right, scoring four more times on runs of 6, 6, 34, and 5 yards, and Aaron Riggs tacked on a 2-yard scoring plunge in the fourth quarter.
“There was fantastic blocking,” Riggs said. “I knew that if we just played good fundamental football the whole game we’d win. We played four quarters tonight. That’s the best football I think we’ve played all year.”
The development of Noah Albin in a leadership role and Daniel Hinton’s continuing growth in skills contributed to the Warriors’ stellar defensive performance, Thierolf said.
“He made three or four plays tonight that two weeks ago he didn’t make,” Thierolf said of Hinton.
Pedersen was credited with 2 interceptions, and Palic 1.
With the Warriors running at will, Schneider used his arm sparingly, completing 2 passes to Pedersen and Corbin Wheeler for 38 yards.
Riggs was a workhorse between the goal lines, toting the ball 28 times for 182 yards, and Wheeler gained 67 yards on 10 carries.
Marion will take on Heart of America League foe Trinity Catholic of Hutchinson on Friday in the first of three consecutive home games.
“They do a lot of things that teams have already shown us, but they’re kind of a compilation of about three different teams,” Thierolf said. “They’re a very athletic team, a quick team. They play great defense. It’s always fun playing Trinity Catholic. We respect the heck out of their coaching staff and their kids.”