Marion High School’s football team did not struggle scoring points in its 35-6 win Friday night over Ell-Saline, but head coach Grant Thierolf said the team made enough mistakes to last a whole season.
“We weren’t clicking on all sides, and that’s going to happen first game of the year,” he said. “I have no doubt we’ll get better as the season goes on.”
After technical difficulties with the scoreboard slowed the start of the game, Marion’s offense started slow, going three-and-out its first possession.
After the punt, Ell-Saline got its option offense going with two long runs by fullback Justin Schmutz, then a reverse to running back Luiz Arcero a couple of plays later.
In Marion territory, Ell-Saline seemed to be driving for a score before Schmutz fumbled on the 13-yard line, and Marion defensive lineman Nick Meyer came out of the pile with the ball.
After consecutive three-and-outs by both teams, Marion got the ball back on its own 17 yard-line.
On third-and-seven, fullback Adam Janzen broke a 15-yard run, followed by another first down run by quarterback Taylor Heidebrecht.
After a short gain by Janzen on the next first down, Heidebrecht found Grif Case on a play-action fade down the Ell-Saline sideline for a 47-yard touchdown.
Two possessions later, on the second play of the drive, Heidebrecht would find James Jones on an identical play for 60 yards down Marion’s sideline, giving Marion a 14-0 lead.
“I was obviously pleased with the passing game,” Thierolf said. “It’s nice to be able to score without having to put a 15-to-20-play drive together.”
After another Ell-Saline three-and-out, Marion drove down the field with time running out in the first half, aided by a 29-yard end-around by Jones.
A holding penalty brought back a Heidebrecht touchdown run, followed by a false start penalty.
Heidebrecht got 10 yards of it back on third down, then hit Case on the goal-line on fourth-down to score Marion’s third touchdown. The Warriors led 20-0 at the half.
Heidebrecht would finish the day 3-for-9 passing, all three completions for touchdowns.
The second half began with a mess of turnovers.
The Marion defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half, but fumbled the return, giving Ell-Saline the ball on the Marion 36.
Two plays later, a bad snap led to a Marion recovery, which they then fumbled right back to Ell-Saline on third down.
Ell-Saline finally got on the board afterward on a 16-yard Schmutz run on fourth down.
Thierolf said he was most pleased with how the offense answered, scoring three plays later on a 54-yard Heidebrecht run around the right end.
After scoring the two-point conversion, the Warriors led 28-6 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
The teams would go back-and-forth until the fourth quarter, when a bad snap for an Ell-Saline punt led to a short touchdown run for Trevor Kruse.
Marion won the game 35-6, holding Ell-Saline to 175 yards of total offense.
“You’ve got to be pleased with our defense, because we didn’t give up a ton of yards,” Thierolf said. “Ell-Saline’s going to win their share of games.”
Marion plays at Sedwick this Friday, a team that starts 11 seniors on defense.
“It’s another one of those things on the way toward becoming a factor in the league race,” Thierolf said. “We’ve got to be very sound defensively, and we’ve got to be able to move the ball offensively, because they’re a good veteran team.”