ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW OTTOSON
The Marion Warriors ended their 2006 season with a 30-6 loss to a bigger, stronger and faster Hesston Swather team Thursday night in Hesston.
“We played about as hard as we could play, but I expected that from our kids,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “We take pride in the fact that we are Marion Warriors and really try to live up to the name.”
Playing for pride while battling a chilly wind, the Warriors fell behind by 24 points before halftime, but matched the Hesston starters blow for blow in the second half.
Neither team found any use for the passing game, but Hesston found ways to overcome third-and-10 situations on its opening drive, and those conversions set the tone for the first half.
Swather fullback Cameron Bailey converted one with a 15-yard burst up the middle, and Landon Unruh picked up another with a 13-yard sprint around the end.
“We did a lot of good things against Hesston but just could not stop them on third down,” Thierolf said.
Jake Wray finished the drive by punching the ball into the end zone from two yards out with only 3:14 remaining in the first quarter.
The drive swung momentum in Hesston’s favor, and set the tone for time of possession. Over the course of the game, 70 percent of the clock ticked away with the ball in Hesston’s hands.
On their second drive, the Swathers received long runs from Michael Petrocci and Michael Janzen. Petrocci scored from 5 yards out 3:04 into the second quarter.
Bailey ran into the end zone untouched from 12 yards out against an exhausted Warrior defense with 2:17 left in the half.
Weather conditions grew steadily less comfortable throughout the night, and a light mist dampened the field during halftime.
Nevertheless, Hesston mustered another long drive to start the third. The Swathers converted on two third downs and a fourth down before Unruh scored from 13 yards out with 3:57 left in the quarter.
But with time running out on their season, the Warriors caught a spark despite the nasty weather.
The Warriors totaled 123 yards in the fourth quarter and running back Emmanuel Jackson handed out a few treats.
First, Jackson dropped Unruh three yards behind the line to force the Swathers into their first punt of the night.
Next, the fans who made the trip came out of their seats as Jackson got loose for several dazzling runs before time expired.
One was a 40-yard jaunt from 30 to 30. Another was a 1-yard scamper to the Hesston 8. On the next, he carved into the end zone for Marion’s only score.
Even though it was much too late for any thought of a comeback, the team gained momentum with the points.
Hesston’s final drive ended with a fumble, and Jackson ended the game leaping over a flattened Hesston defender.
Derek Riggs, Austin Hager, Wil Case, Jason Hett and Mitchell Leppke all contributed to the Warriors’ 179 total yards, and 121 yards came with the ball in Jackson’s hands.
The Warrior defenders played their hearts out, but Hett showed determination by getting in on 18 tackles and forcing a fumble.
“We are pleased with the way our seniors played,” Thierolf said. “They were part of three league championship teams in four years of high school football and that is not too bad.”
“We really look forward to next year. Our kids will work extremely hard and will be ready to get back into the (post-season) mix.”