Strong defense set the tone in the face of early miscues, and the Warriors scored on offense and defense for a decisive 34-12 Marion win Friday night against the Inman Teutons at Inman.
“With the exception of three or four plays on defense, our guys played lights out,” said Marion head coach Grant Thierolf.
The defense got its first test early when Marion quarterback Cole Lewman fumbled and Inman recovered at midfield.
On third-and-1 at the Marion 41, Inman quarterback Justin Friesen was swarmed for a 6-yard loss by a host of Marion defenders after fumbling the snap from center, and Inman was forced to punt.
Marion pushed the ball from its own 10-yard line to the 24, but the Warriors’ first punt of the night gave the Teutons good field position at the Inman 47.
Four plays later on first down from the Marion 40, Warrior lineman David Helmer crashed through to drop an Inman back for a 7-yard loss from which the Teutons could not recover. A punt by Inman’s Camien Parsons pinned Marion back at its own 11-yard line.
Dakin Ledford made a spectacular catch on a 30-yard pass from Lewman on Marion’s next possession, the key play in the Warriors’ first deep push into Teuton territory. But three plays later, a second Lewman fumble ended the Marion drive at the Inman 27. Both teams were scoreless in the opening quarter.
On Marion’s first possession of the second quarter, Lewman put his miscues and most of the Inman defense far behind him. Taking a second-and-9 snap at the Marion 45, Lewman raced around right end and down the sideline, finally being pushed out of bounds at the Inman 4.
Lewman got the call on the next play, slipping over the right side for Marion’s first touchdown with 8:06 remaining in the quarter and a 6-0 lead after the failed point after attempt.
Marion’s next scoring opportunity came after another strong defensive stand deep in Inman territory gave the Warriors the ball on the Inman 39 with only 1:02 remaining in the half.
The clock had run down to six seconds remaining in the half when Coleman and Ledford hooked up from the Inman 25 on a pass to the 4-yard line. Coleman slashed right and into the end zone with three seconds left in the half, and carried the 2-point conversion in for a 14-0 halftime advantage.
Marion’s defense stepped up again early in the third quarter, this time with a scoring play.
Ledford batted an Inman pass in the air at the Teuton 30-yard line, and Colten Johnson gathered it in at the 38 and sprinted all the way to the end zone.
Thierolf said the play was indicative of Ledford’s defensive play all game.
“Football is very much a rhythm game, and he just got into a rhythm – he recognized what the quarterback was doing, recognized the plays, and just got into his drops,” Thierolf said.
“He made a lot of nice plays,” Thierolf continued. “We expect that out of Dakin – he’s worked hard for it.”
Grif Case kicked the point after, and with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter, Marion led, 21-0.
Inman wasted little time responding. Grant Garst took a short pass from Justin Friesen and stunned the Warriors with a 75-yard dash for a touchdown that electrified the home crowd. The PAT was unsuccessful, leaving the score 21-6 with 4:57 to go in the third.
Johnson delivered some electricity of his own on the ensuing kickoff, finding a gap on the left side and running for an apparent touchdown. But a clipping penalty nullified the score and set up the Warriors on the Teuton 32.
Less than a minute later, the score was 28-6 when Brody Carroll bulled his way for an 8-yard score and Case tacked on the extra point.
Facing fourth-and-10 from their own 28 on the next series, punter Carsons surprised Warrior defenders by lofting a pass to Brandom Cottam, who took the ball all the way to the Marion 36.
After a 5-yard loss, Friesen connected with Garst for another long gainer to the Marion 1. Friesen completed the drive with a scoring toss to a wide-open Lance Schroeder, making the score 28-12 with 53 seconds left in the third quarter. The conversion attempt failed.
Marion plunged deep into Inman territory on the next drive, but came up empty when a fourth down pass at the Inman 16 from Coleman to Ledford fell incomplete.
Lewman darted through the right side of the line from the Inman 3 on the next drive for his third touchdown of the evening, giving Marion the final 34-12 margin of victory.
Theirolf indicated satisfaction with the progress displayed by his offense from the first contest against Lyons.
“I was most pleased with our perimeter blocking – our slots and wide receivers did a much better job of staying on their blocks.”
The offensive line also merited praise from Thierolf.
“We’ve got some smart linemen, and when you have smart linemen and athletic linemen, it allows you to do some things that are a lot of fun for them,” he said. “We’re pretty solid up there.”
“I’m just thrilled with Isaac Baldwin and Jon Tacha, too,” Thierolf said. “Those guys have put some time in the weight room and conditioning, and it’s starting to show.”
While satisfied with the win, Thierolf acknowledged learning and improving from week to week is a goal he has for his team.
“Part of the process of this team is just figuring out every week how to play like we need them to play,” Thierolf explained. “We’re still learning how to win.”
The Warriors moved the ball effectively on the ground, with Johnson totaling 107 yards to lead all rushers. Lewman was close behind with 94, Carroll had 56, and Antoszyck netted 50, a split Thierolf found appropriate.
“That’s the way the option’s supposed to work. You can’t really focus on one guy, and I think we probably had pretty good distribution tonight,” Thierolf said.
Lewman threw 8 passes and completed 2, both to Ledford for 51 total yards.
Defensive statistics for the game were unavailable.
Marion will be on the road for a second consecutive week this Friday when the Warriors travel to Bennington for a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Bulldogs.