ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Heading into Friday night’s Cottonwood Valley League matchup with Chase County, coach Grant Thierolf felt he knew what his Marion Warriors were all about.
Following their first three games, all decided by seven points or less against quality competition, the Warriors stood at 2-1 and Thierolf knew his team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Chase County, on the other hand, had compiled a 3-0 record against average competition, outscoring their opponents 90-21 and perhaps learning little about themselves in the process.
Following the Warriors’ 49-7 blowout of the Bulldogs on Friday, Chase County probably learned more about themselves than they really wanted to know.
“There’s a case where the quality of our first three games really prepared us for tonight,” Thierolf said. “We found out really fast against Minneapolis what we didn’t do well, we found out against Southeast of Saline what we could do, and we started putting it together last week.”
The Warriors began taking the Bulldogs to school on their first possession of the game. Steven Boone burst through the Bulldog defense for 58 yards on the first play, taking the ball to the Bulldog 16-yard line.
Four plays later, quarterback Clayton Chamberland hustled into the end zone from five yards out. Boone added the extra point and Marion led 7-0 just 4:34 into the first quarter.
“I think the opening run by Steven set the tone for the evening,” Thierolf said. “He had a great night running the ball.”
After Chase County was forced to punt in its next possession, Marion launched a 78-yard, eight-play drive that culminated with a 44-yard pass from Chamberland to Tyler Stubenhofer pass followed by a one-yard plunge into the end zone by Boone one-yard plunge into the end zone.
Marion led 14-0 with 5:29 to play in the first quarter.
The teams traded possessions before Jordan Trapp recovered a Chase County fumble on the Bulldog 45-yard line.
Before Chase County could recover, Chamberland aired a perfectly thrown ball to Calvin Riggs, who took it in for a 44-yard touchdown. With 1:50 to play, still in the first quarter, Marion commanded a 21-0 advantage.
Chase County actually threatened on its next possession, returning the kickoff to the 48 yard line. Three plays later, though, Jimmy Shipman recovered a Bulldog fumble on the Warrior 20-yard line.
With 9:06 left in the first half, Marion’s offense again went to work. Like a playground bully, the Warriors pushed and shoved their way downfield, mounting a 10-play 82-yard drive-all on the ground.
Chamberland ran the final 12 yards to pay dirt, and Marion owned a 28-0 lead with 4:19 to play in the half.
“Clayton did a great job of running the option all night,” Thierolf said. “We knew he could do that and we wanted to work on some things that we haven’t been doing much.”
Not satisfied with their 28-0 lead, the Warrior defense dug in once more and forced another Bulldog punt. With 2:40 remaining in the half, Marion took over on its own 35-yard line.
Using an effective blend of running and passing, the Warriors marched downfield.
Chamberland connected on a third-and-10 pass of 13 yards to Josh Smith to keep the drive alive, then hit Stubenhofer down the sideline for 32 yards, setting up a 13-yard Chamberland-to-Stubenhofer touchdown pass with 34 seconds left in the half.
The Warriors entered the locker room leading 35-0, but halftime motivation was the last thing Thierolf had to preach.
“I told them we had to cut out our foolish penalties, but we also knew we had to keep our intensity because Chase County is a solid football team.”
After Chase County faltered on its first possession at the Warrior 29-yard line, Marion pieced together a 13-play, 71-yard drive that ate 6:01 off the clock.
Boone rumbled for 50 yards on this drive alone, and finished with 225 for the night. Nelson added 14 yards on the drive.
Boone scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard plunge to give MHS a 42-0 lead.
“Our offensive line did a great job,” Thierolf said. “Boone had a fantastic night, but was have another back in Casey Nelson who’s pretty doggone good, too.
“The varsity guys knew that was the last possession they were going to play so they wanted to make sure it counted.”
Leading by 42 points, Thierolf inserted numerous substitutes.
Chase County took advantage by piecing together a 73-yard drive, aided by a 55-yard run by Jared Mann. The Bulldogs broke the shutout with a Mann run of 13 yards with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
Marion ended the scoring on a 78-yard touchdown run by Nelson late in the third quarter.
“Everyone we had suited up got to play more than one rep and that always makes us feel good to be able to do that,” Thierolf said. “This keeps our confidence going because we still think it’s important to win the league title.”
Marion’s offense punished the Bulldog defense with 590 total yards, including 445 rushing and 145 passing.
Leading the way was Boone with 225 yards on 24 carries, and Nelson who carried 11 times for 155 yards.
Chamberland completed five of 13 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Stubenhofer led all receivers with three catches for 88 yards and one touchdown.
Leading defenders for Marion were Tyler Smith with four first hits, one assist, one tackle for a loss, and one caused fumble.
Dale Vogel had three first hits, two assists, and one tackle for a loss.
The Warriors limited the Bulldogs to just eight first downs and 181 yards total offense.
Coming-Next up for Marion (3-1) will be another road game, this time at Council Grove. The Braves won their first game of the season Friday by beating Herington. Game time is 7 p.m.