ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
The Marion Warriors used a 21-point surge in the first half to beat the Council Grove Braves 27-7 Friday night in Council Grove.
The Warriors jumped out quickly, scoring on their first possession. Jared Smith’s run from seven yards out and Alex Saxonis’ extra-point kick gave the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Jason Matz pulled down a 31-yard pass from Smith over a Council Grove defender and ran in for the score. Saxonis added the extra point and the Warriors lead 14-0 at the 6:12 mark of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, a Braves receiver was flagged in the end zone for offensive pass interference, nullifying a Council Grove touchdown.
On their next play, the Braves fumbled the ball and the Warriors recovered.
Taking full advantage of the turnover, Jarvis Whiteman galloped 60 yards for the Warriors’ third touchdown of the first half.
Saxonis’s kick was successful and Marion took a 21-0 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
In the third quarter, Marion embodied the meaning of ball control, allowing Council Grove to touch the ball three times in the quarter-twice on kickoffs.
The Warrior offense ran 20 plays for an eventual touchdown run from five yards out by Steven Boone.
Council Grove would run its first and only play from scrimmage with less than 12 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Marion finally surrendered a touchdown with 5:09 left in the game. After the successful kick, the Braves trailed 27-7.
Then, late in the fourth, Marion lost a fumble to the Braves with 4:20 remaining.
Council Grove would threaten to score again after a long pass reception, but Ken Versch would pick off Braves quarterback Derek Scott to preserve the 27-7 victory.
Head coach Grant Thierolf said he was happy about the win, but humbled by the tragedy of the week.
“It’s been a tough week for every team in the state to concentrate on what they’re trying to do,” Thierolf said. “It’s only a game and we want our kids to never forget that. We’d gladly give up a loss to not have to go through something like this week again.”
The Warrior ground attack this night looked like the Marion of old with 238 yards on the night. Jarvis Whiteman picked up 101 yards on 11 carries to pace the Warriors.
“We’ve gotten away from just smash-mouth football,” Thierolf said. “But we’ve tried to take advantage of the kids we have. I thought they did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
For the third straight week, Andrew Brookens lead the team on defense, racking up 14 tackles and eight assists.
“I didn’t think we got very good pressure on the quarterback for some reason or another,” Thierolf said. “But we’ll get that straightened out by next week.
“And losing Robert Verbic virtually the whole game doesn’t help because he’s as good as defensive backs as there is.”
Verbic was sidelined with a sprained ankle after Marion’s second offensive play of the gam. He is expected to play this Friday when the Warriors host undefeated Class 4A Rose Hill.