There’s only one word to describe Marion’s 50-27 road opener loss to Ell-Saline yesterday. Ugly.
Really, really ugly.
The Cardinals soared to an 18-0 lead in the initial seven minutes of play, scoring on their first three possessions. The Warriors repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, drawing penalties, dropping snaps and fumbling the ball left and right. And the second half looked just as bad, until both teams put in their junior varsity teams – though for opposite reasons.
Ell-Saline took possession of the ball out of gate, driving to the 25-yard line before being moved back 10 yards on a holding call. But the Cardinal quarterback escaped to the five yard line for a first down and Ell-Saline’s Kaleb Whitehair ran in for the first touchdown of the night with 9:30 remaining, making it 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Marion, on the other hand, received the ball only to let a penalty back them up to the 25-yard line. Senior receiver Jacob Harper snagged a pass to take it to the 32-yard line, but a third down pass to Brody Carroll fell incomplete and the drive fizzled out.
The Cardinals went right back to work, starting on the 36-yard line. But with 7:50 remaining, Ell-Saline’s Toby Omli broke free for a 64-yard touchdown run, making it 12-0 after another failed two-point conversion.
Carroll returned the kick to the 41-yard line to give Marion good field position for their second attempt, but one again the drive stalled as James Jones was brought down for a loss on second down and a pass to Harper fell incomplete on third. As if that weren’t bad enough, a bad snap foiled their punt and Taylor Heidebrecht was downed at the Marion 21-yard line, where Ell-Saline took over on downs.
Not about to waste their opportunity, the Cardinals’ Garrett Walker completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Keegan Hays, making the score 20-0 after Whitehair ran in for the two-point conversion.
Once more Carroll brought the return to near midfield with 4:37 remaining, but a pass to the right sideline was ruled a fumble on the 46-yard line. Fortunately for the Warriors, the Cardinals fumbled it right back on the 43-yard line with 4:06 left to go. But Marion just couldn’t get anything going, fumbling the ball again to Ell-Saline, who punted the ball inside the Marion 20-yard line.
But once more the Warriors went nowhere, ending the first quarter trailing the Cardinals, 20-0.
The second period slid downhill even faster as a Marion punt attempt was foiled by a bungled snap, giving Ell-Saline the ball on the Warriors’ three-yard line. From there it was a hop, skip and jump for the Cardinal’s Omli for the touchdown at 11:38. Ell-Saline made the two-point conversion for a score of 28-0.
The Warriors took over the ball and it looked eerily familiar, with Carroll returning the ball for good position near midfield, but the Marion motor stalling out to give possession back to the Cardinals.
A dim light began to flicker when Marion’s Kyle Palic pounded up the middle for two first downs, moving the ball deep into Cardinal territory. It looked like Marion might finally save the shut-out, but Palic fumbled near the 20-yard line with 3:49 remaining.
Marion stopped the Cardinals from capitalizing on the fumble, but couldn’t take advantage of its own turnovers. Harper intercepted an Ell-Saline pass on the 12-yard line, but the Warriors gave the ball right back on a fumble at the 11-yard line with seconds to play. Harper snagged his second interception of the night and ran to the 26, saving the touchdown, but the clock ran out on the half with Ell-Saline still leading, 28-0.
The Cardinals continued their rout of Marion right out of the locker room with a 51-yard touchdown run from Whitehair at 8:08, making it a 36-0 shut-out after the two-point conversion. Marion’s Harper and Carroll both went down on the play, and Carroll did not return to the game with what appeared to be an injured ankle.
With just a minute left in the quarter, Warrior Taylor Heidebrecht, Palic and Jones combined for three first downs and moved the ball to the Cardinal’s 10-yard line. The drive continued into the final period, with Palic finally rushing five yards for Marion’s first touchdown of the night, making it 36-7 after Grif Case drilled the extra point.
Ell-Saline wasn’t about to let things get out of hand, responding with an 86-yard touchdown run from LuizAntonio Arceo at 10:29 to up its lead to 42-7 after a failed two-point attempt.
Heidebrecht rose to the challenge, though, breaking free and turning on the speed to run 73 yards for the Warriors’ second touchdown with just over 10 minutes remaining, leaving it at 42-14 after a Case extra point.
The Cardinals gained several yards on a stiff-arm to bring the ball out to their 26-yard line for a first down with close to eight minutes left. And then Arceo took over, cutting twice to avoid Marion tacklers and was gone, slashing diagonally downfield for a 74-yard touchdown run. Ell-Saline completed the two-point conversion pass to make it 50-14.
Marion was finally able to get the ball moving when Ell-Saline brought their junior varsity on the field, scoring with a pitch from Zac Robson to Adam Janzen at 2:45 for a 20-yard rushing touchdown. Robson pitched to Caleb Williams to gain a first down and the 15-yard line, and then Heidebrecht ran in for the touchdown for the final score of 50-27.
The Warriors will need to pull together and find their groove quickly, as Marion is scheduled to host league champion Sedgwick in their next match-up Friday.