While the press box above and track all around have changed, the game on the field at Warrior Stadium remains the same.
Grant Thierolf enters his 28th year as head coach for Marion High School, and his expectations for and confidence in his team are the same as ever.
“We just have to stay healthy, I really think that’s the biggest thing for us,” he said. “Stay healthy and have everybody accept the role they’ve been given on the team. If that happens, then we’ll be OK.”
Team health became a problem last year when quarterback Jack Schneider went out with a shoulder injury in the fifth week of the season.
Schneider said he’s added 20 pounds to the freshman frame he carried into last season.
While he missed substantial time with the injury, he stayed engaged to try and get better without playing, Thierolf said.
“We made sure he got every rep mentally in practice, too,” he said. “We had him stand right behind the quarterback, make his calls, make his audibles. He did everything that he was going to do except for play.”
The sophomore Schneider characterizes Marion’s youthful roster; the Warriors have just three seniors this season.
Adam Kjellin, Dylan Pippin, and William Adame will fill the role of senior leadership for the Warriors.
Thierolf characterized his team as a “fun group to work with.” He said three players, Schneider, Garrett Hoffner, and freshman Colton Mercer, had perfect attendance to summer workout sessions.
“Those three kids never missed a day, and when you do that, you always give yourself a chance to get better,” he said.
Many others were there whenever they could be, he said, missing only because of family vacation, summer camp, or other obligations.
The Warriors lost many starters and contributors from the defensive side of the ball, including starting linebackers Tyler Neufeld, Kyle Palic, and Adam Janzen. Replacing them will be a challenge, Thierolf said.
“Linebackers will continually get better as the year goes on,” Thierolf said.
He added that Pippin is the team’s only established defensive end at this point, and that will be a by-committee effort for a while. While the defensive backfield has thinned, Thierolf said he feels pretty good about the personnel he has there.
Offensively, the Warriors switched from a speed running game to a power running game when Jacob Baldwin replaced Schneider at quarterback. The Warriors look to be faster with Schneider handling quarterback duties again.
Marion also passed more than in previous years, and Thierolf said he expects that to continue, citing Schneider’s aptitude as a thrower.
Thierolf said he felt like the Warriors had a good summer overall, but that won’t mean much when the season begins Sept. 4.
“We’ve gotta prove it on the field,” Thierolf said.