Marion played its best game of the season Friday, drubbing Ell-Saline in front of a homecoming crowd to the tune of 40-22.
The Warriors took a while to get their offense going, but were able to impose their will as the game went on.
Head coach Grant Thierolf credited the offensive line for leading the way.
“We challenged our offensive line,” Thierolf said. “Any time you play Ell-Saline, it’s going to be an offensive line, defensive line battle. The thing was they never really stopped our offense.”
Marion had one drive derailed by a red zone penalty, and another by a red zone turnover. Beyond those initial hiccups, though, the offense executed well, with its main three ball carriers accruing 214 yards on 37 carries for an average of about six yards per rush.
Marion didn’t score until the second quarter, when a 30-yard pass from Jack Schneider to Mason Pedersen broke a 0-0 stalemate with 10:44 left in the first half. Thierolf said Schneider threw the ball better. Earning 87 yards on six of seven successful attempts, Schneider’s passing was almost perfect. He added the two-point conversion, which Marion would successfully do on all five of its touchdowns.
Marion scored a second touchdown 56 seconds before half with a 1-yard run from Aaron Riggs. Riggs, like his coach, credited his offensive line.
“They’ll continue to hopefully carry us through games,” Riggs said, “because really, it’s up to them, and how hard they go.”
Ell-Saline sliced Marion’s advantage to 16-8 with a score in just over two minutes out of the break.
“We can’t let them come out in the first drive of the second half and drive right down the field in two minutes and score,” Thierolf said. “That shouldn’t happen.”
That’s as close as Ell-Saline would come, however. Marion drove the ball right back down in three minutes and answered with a touchdown, and five minutes later added another to go ahead 32-8.
“That was big because whatever momentum they had at that point was kind of sucked right out of them,” Thierolf said. “So the kids didn’t respond on defense, but they came out and responded offensively. Then they started playing better on defense, too.”
The Warriors recovered three Ell-Saline fumbles, and added an interception when Mason Pedersen snatched a deep ball at the end of the first half.
“That’s something that we haven’t done a good job of defensively, is getting turnovers,” Thierolf said. “So that’s a real positive thing.”
After allowing a 58-yard touchdown run, Marion answered with a final scoring drive, capped off by Peyton Heidebrecht’s second touchdown of the night to bring the final Marion tally to 40.
The Warriors didn’t spend too much time basking in their homecoming triumph; players ran off the field shouting their motto for the upcoming week of practice: “It’s Chase County week!”
The Warriors will head to Cottonwood Falls on Friday in their first game of district play after obtaining a spotless 4-0 league record.
“It’s gonna be the fun week, and the week where we get at it,” senior lineman Adam Kjellin said. “And Chase County should be a fun game. That’s when a bit of prejudice comes out.”