Drought ends; Marion rushes to semifinals
The last time any Marion County team saw the Smith Center Redmen, Ronald Reagan was in the White House.
It was 1986, and the Hillsboro Trojans were a victory away from playing for their first state title in football in Class 3A state.
The Redmen were too strong, steamrolling the visiting Trojans for a 36-0 win en route to legendary coach Roger Barta’s second state title.
Nearly 37 years later, the Warriors met the mighty juggernaut Friday night at the same place the Trojans had fallen.
This time, it was for a bid to Class 1A’s quarterfinal round of the playoffs and an end to 29 years of Marion falling short in the postseason.
There’s nothing perplexing about the Redmen’s attack, but being able to go the distance against their physical wishbone and pistol offense is easier said than done.
The Warriors weren’t intimidated by the 10-time state champion. Marion’s senior duo of quarterback Jack Lanning and running back Trevor Schafers excelled.
The Redmen don’t play from behind often, and Marion hit Smith Center straight in the mouth from the start, rolling to a 38-14 victory.
“I didn’t expect the margin of victory to be that much for sure,” Warrior coach Shaun Craft said. “I just preached all week about eyes to the thighs on tackles and playing downhill and being more physical than them.
”We tweaked a few things on D to match up their wishbone. It just came down to our guys playing smart and executing and playing their butts off-”.
One thing was loading the box with defenders so every time Redmen running back Luke Franklin got the ball, he had a bevy of Warriors waiting on him in the backfield.
Marion limited Smith Center’s daunting ground attack to just 176 yards, 202 total, and Franklin to 64 on 15 carries.
The Warriors proved they were ready for the Redmen from the opening kickoff with Jonathan Frese zipping 89 yards for a lead: Smith Center could get no closer than 12-8 in the second quarter.
Lanning took over from there, outdoing the entire Redmen ground game by himself, keeping the ball 22 times for a game-high 178 yards and two first-half touchdowns. The Warriors stretched their lead to 18-8 at the break.
The Redmen corralled Lanning in the second half, but Schafers broke loose, ripping off 146 yards — 119 in the fourth quarter — on 9 carries for a trio of touchdowns and a stunning average of 16 yards per carry.
Marion rolled up 344 total yards, 318 courtesy of rushing, in the rout.
The 9-1 Warriors will be host another team Friday similar to the Redmen in terms of physicality — Matt Biehler’s Conway Springs Cardinals, no strangers to state championships, either.
Centre Cougars are shut out Friday against Cunningham, 66-0.
Plagued with injuries from the start of the season, Centre was unable to end its season with a bang in the regional round.
The Cougars finished the season with a 4-5 record.
Peabody-Burns was unable to get its revenge on Tescott, losing 69-19 Friday.
The Warriors opened up their season with a loss to Tescott only to come full circle in the end.
Despite losing in the post-season, Peabody-Burns finished the season with a 6-4 record.
Last modified Nov. 9, 2023