Marion head football coach Grant Thierolf said the offense does not have problems protecting the ball in practice, though turnovers have been a struggle in game situations.
“We don’t fumble, we don’t throw interceptions,” he said. “We’ve had nine turnovers in two games. No team in America’s good enough to win that way.”
The Warriors had five turnovers Friday night in a 34-14 loss at Sedgwick in a game that was close until the fourth quarter.
After being shut out 14-0 in the first half, Marion started its comeback on its first possession of the third quarter, after a Sedgwick three-and-out.
A Sedgwick personal foul penalty advanced the ball to the Cardinal 35-yard line, and on the next play, quarterback Taylor Heidebrecht found receiver James Jones in the end zone, catching the ball over multiple defenders.
A converted 2-point play brought the score within 6 to 14-8 with 10:48 left in the quarter.
The Warrior defense held for another three-and-out, gaining position on its own 45.
Two plays later, on third-and-15, Heidebrecht rolled to his left, launching a pass down the sideline to Zach Robson, who was tackled at the Sedgwick 11.
Heidebrecht kept the ball to himself the next play, running through the middle of the defense for a touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion left the score tied at 14 with 8 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
Two possessions later, Sedgwick got the ball back, going 70 yards in five plays to score its third touchdown on a 27-yard run by Dalton Brandt.
“From that point, we just got behind the 8-ball,” Thierolf said. “We didn’t make some plays that we needed to make, and the kids sometimes tried to do too much.”
Marion got the ball back three times, still only down 6 early in the fourth quarter, but struggled to move the ball, being pinned deep in its own territory.
Brandt would score again with 3:43 left in regulation, then once more after a Marion fumble on the ensuing possession for his third touchdown.
Thierolf said the team would need to improve its tackling, blocking, and pass defense, among other things.
“There’s a myriad of things,” he said. “That’s all part of the process of putting a team together, and getting it to where you want it to be at the end of the year.”
Thierolf did note that the defense played well together at times, and that the passing game was better than it has been in the past.
Heidebrecht was 8 of 22 passing for 137 yards, with 90 yards rushing.
“Taylor’s one of those quarterbacks, that he has elusiveness to him, so he gives us that option,” Thierolf said. “We’ve got to run the ball better against pressure defense, and that starts with both blocking and making the proper reads.”
Thierolf said he thought the team played better than in the first game, and will keep working to improve as it prepares for its game at Bennington Friday.
“It’s just a process,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to go back to work Monday, and work on doing those little things better than we did them tonight.”