Though Friday was only the fifth all-time meeting between Marion High School and Trinity Catholic of Hutchinson, the Warriors’ first victory against the Celtics improved their record to 5-1 before the start of district play.
“This gives us a lot of knowledge of how we can play when we really use some enthusiasm,” running back Caleb Williams said. “I feel like going into districts we’ve got a good chance of winning it and going pretty deep into the playoffs.”
The Warriors started out behind, struggling to move the ball early while allowing a touchdown drive on Trinity’s first drive, capped by a 2-yard run by Michael Doeden.
After holding the Celtics to a three-and-out on their next drive, the Warriors used three Adam Janzen runs to set up a 51-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Heidebrecht to James Jones, tying the game with a little less than seven minutes left in the first quarter.
Trinity got the ball back on its own 35-yard line, running the ball to sustain a drive that lasted nearly the rest of the first half.
The Warriors held the Celtics out of the end zone though, forcing a field goal after a sack by Williams and John Nordquist on third down from the Warrior 4. Marion trailed 10-7 at halftime after a Trinity field goal.
“Fortunately our kids realized it’s a two-half game, and in the second half they came out and played much better,” Marion head coach Grant Thierolf said. “We just challenged them and asked them to step up, because physically, Trinity Catholic whipped us the first half, and we weren’t used to that.”
Thierolf said it was fun to watch players make the plays they needed to make, but arguably none was more important than Dylan Pippin’s recovery of a surprise onside kick at the start of the third quarter.
“If he doesn’t get that, they get the ball inside the 50 with a ton of momentum coming out of the first half,” Thierolf said. “For a young sophomore kid to have the poise to make that play, that was huge. That’s one of those plays that defines a ball game.”
The Warriors ended up turning the ball over on downs on that drive, but Thierolf said it helped them win the field position battle, giving the Celtics the ball on their own 9.
Trinity went three-and-out, Marion beginning its next drive on its own 43.
The Warriors drove down the field quickly, on the strength of five Janzen runs, the fifth being a 1-yard dive for the score that gave Marion the lead, and ultimately, the win. Janzen ran for 134 yards on 28 attempts.
The score remained at 13-10 until late in the fourth quarter, when Marion made its final drive to seal the win, highlighted by two tough runs by Williams on third and fourth downs to set up a goal-to-go situation.
“I just didn’t want to let the team down,” Williams said. “I wanted to get that first down, and I used all my might to get it.”
Janzen finished the drive with another 1-yard score, giving the Warriors a 19-10 advantage, which was the final score.
The Warriors begin their state district schedule Friday, traveling to Halstead.
“A whole new season starts this week,” Thierolf said.
Middle school stays undefeated
The Marion Middle School Wildcats defeated Trinity Catholic 34-8 on the road Thursday to remain undefeated with a record of 6-0. They will play Moundridge — also undefeated — at 6 p.m. Thursday.