ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Free Press
Looks can be deceiving, but when Southeast of Saline came to Marion Friday, what you saw on film was exactly what you got.
The undefeated and state-ranked Trojans left town with a convincing 34-7 win over the Warriors.
Marion coach Grant Thierolf didn’t mince words about the loss.
“They were much more physical than we were, they were sharp and they played with a lot of emotion,” he said. “Tonight, they were a much better football team than we were.”
The Trojans used a variety of weapons, both through the air and on the ground, racking up 420 total yards of offense while their defense limited the Warriors to just 118 yards.
“We haven’t been beaten like that in a while, and we got beat in every phase of the game tonight,” Thierolf said. “It wasn’t because we weren’t prepared-they just executed better than we played.”
After Marion returned the opening kickoff to the 35-yard line, three plays produced just five yards, forcing the first of six Warrior punts.
Southeast started on its own 33-yard line and pieced together an 11-play, 67-yard drive over the next 4:38. Matt Myers capped the drive with a two-yard plunge and SES led 7-0 at the 5:57 mark.
Marion gained one first down on a Casey Nelson 10-yard run before being forced to punt.
This time SES started on its own 19-yard line, but the results were identical to their first possession. A 34-yard run by the versatile Justin Schropp, coupled by an 18-yard run by Matt Myers had the Trojans knocking on the Warrior goal line once again.
On second-and-goal at the 3-yard line, Justin Dupes capped the 81-yard drive with a touchdown with less than a minute left in the half. The Trojans led 14-0.
Early in the second quarter, Marion had the ball on its own 20, but a pass on first-and-15 fell incomplete, and the Warriors faced another uphill battle.
“For two or three series, we tried to throw on first down and catch them off guard and we didn’t complete them,” Thierolf said. “That putus in second-and-long, and then you get into a situation where we’re out of rhythm.
“For an option team, it’s hard to get much done when you’re out of rhythm.”
Three plays later, the Warriors punted again, giving the Trojans the ball on the SES 44-yard line.
Five Myers carries coupled with a 43-yard scramble by Schropp, put the Trojans on the 1-yard line. Myers rammed into the end zone with 8:07 left in the half. The extra-point was no good, but SES led, 20-0.
After another Marion three-and-out, SES started at its 37-yard line. Led by Schropp, who finished with 144 yards rushing and 74 passing, the Trojans marched downfield in 11 plays, scoring on Schropp’s one-yard run to bump the lead to 26-0.
“Schropp is the best all-round offensive player we’ve faced this year-and what’s more, he’s surrounded by weapons,” Thierolf said. “They’ve got about six running backs that are pretty doggone good, their receivers catch the ball, they block well down field and their offensive line just manhandled us tonight.
“They’re really a very solid offensive football team.”
Leading by 26 points at halftime, SES and erased any doubts of a Warrior comeback by taking the second-half kickoff and driving 58 yards in 10 plays.
Myers scored again, this time from one yard out, and the Trojans led 34-0 with 8:11 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors showed some pride on their next drive, starting on their own 35 and marching 26 yards in 10 plays before being forced to punt.
“I thought we played better in the second half,” Thierolf said. “We’re young enough that most of our kids haven’t played in a really meaningful game, and I think we found out you have to ratchet up your intensity and make plays you might not normally make.”
SES field the punt and took over on the 17-yard line. Three plays later the Warriors forced the first Trojan punt of the night. But Jason Hett didn’t handle the ball cleanly and SES recovered the fumble at the Marion 44.
Two plays later, SES returned the favor, fumbling on Marion’s 31 yard line with David DeForest there to recover the ball.
Four plays into the fourth quarter, though, Josh Kelsey’s pass to Hett was picked off by Austin Barnes, killing the drive.
But the Warrior defense proved its resolve, forcing another SES fumble on the Trojans’ initial play. Chris Freebie recovered the ball on the SES 14.
This time, Marion cashed in on its opportunity, scoring six plays later on Nelson’s five-yard carry with 7:31 left for the final 34-7 margin.
“It was important to put some plays together and score,” Thierolf said. “Nobody like to get shut out, and it was important for our kids’ confidence.”
SES pieced together one more drive, but DeForest recovered a Trojan fumble on the 7-yard line in the final two minutes to stave off more Trojan points.
SES rolled up 18 first downs to just seven for Marion. The Trojans had 346 yards rushing to Marion’s 116.
Myers led the Trojan ground attack with 166 yards.
Nelson led the Warriors with 89 hard-earned yards on 19 carries. Kelsey managed just 16 yards on 12 carries.
Josh Smith caught Marion’s only completed pass, but gained just two yards. Kelsey finished with a 1-for-9 passing night.
Dale Vogel led the defense with four solo tackles and seven assists while Brookens had nine tackles.
“Anytime you play a really good football team, you’re able to learn from it,” Thierolf said. “You learn what you need to do to get better and compete with them. If we can see that on film and coach that in, then we learned from the loss.”
With the loss, Marion falls to 5-2 for the season and 0-1 in district play while SES is 7-0 and 1-0.
Coming-Marion will make make the short cross-county trip to Hillsboro Friday for the second game in district play.
“I hope the kids get excited about our game with Hillsboro,” Thierolf said. “Now that we’re in the big-game part of our season, we have to increase our intensity in practice and in games.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to play well,” he added. “It really comes down to a situation where we still control some things. We’ll just go into Hillsboro and give it everything we’ve got.”