A rain-soaked senior night in Marion was the setting for the end of a three-game losing streak, as the Warriors defeated District 9 opponent Southeast of Saline 28-13 Friday night.
Several Warriors returned from injuries to make key plays to lead Marion to its first district win.
Down 7-6 with 5:12 to play in the first half, Marion?s Colton Johnson intercepted a Nathan Peterson from the 41-yard line and returned it for a touchdown. The touchdown by the Marion junior playing in his first game since an early-season injury proved to be a momentum shifter.
?We were just hoping he?d get to the end zone,? said coach Grant Thierolf. ?I don?t know if he?d run that far in the seven weeks (he was injured).?
Marion stopped the Trojans on the next possession, leading to another touchdown before the half.
Backed up at its own 4-yard line, Marion moved to midfield with a 44-yard first-down run from Marion senior Les Riggs. Wearing a cast to protect a broken thumb, Riggs broke free for three runs of 40-plus yards.
?I used my left hand, that?s pretty much it,? said Riggs.
Riggs? aforementioned long run (his third) set up a reverse pass from Cole Lewman to Randy Regnier for a 50-yard touchdown, giving Marion a 22-7 lead with 32.5 seconds in the first half.
The first carry of the night for Riggs was a 44-yard touchdown with 4:43 in the first, cutting the early Trojan lead to 7-6 after a failed 2-point run.
The senior?s second long run totaled 57 yards, moving Marion into Trojan territory at the 21-yard line. Following the run, the rain started pouring, drawing cheers from the Marion faithful. An ensuing Warrior fumble set up the Trojan possession that ended with Johnson?s interception for a touchdown.
Southeast of Saline started the second half capitalizing on a Marion turnover. The Trojans recovered a Marion fumble with 10:00 left in the third quarter and scored with a one-yard Peterson touchdown run with 5:44 in the third. The Trojans fumbled the extra-point try to keep the score 22-13.
In the fourth quarter, Marion stopped the Trojans twice inside the Warrior 5 for turnovers on downs, then recovered a fumble in Trojan territory to ensure the victory. The first stop happened with 11:54 to play in the game and Southeast of Saline threatening at the Warrior 1-yard line. The Warrior defense tackled Brock Long four yards shy of the line of scrimmage to force the turnover on downs.
Eight minutes later, Marion regained possession, holding off another Trojan touchdown with a fourth-down stop. Long was tackled once again for a loss, this time for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-3.
Marion punted the ball on the next possession but forced a fumble on first down to set up the final score. Previously injured early in the contest, Dakin Leford recovered a Peterson fumble at the Trojan 34-yard line.
The ensuing scoring drive was kept alive on third-and-7, when Mikael Antoszyk picked up 17 yards on a reverse play. Dillon Richmond capped the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 35.8 seconds in the game.
Marion (5-3, 1-1) will play Hillsboro (4-4, 1-1) at Joel H. Wiens Stadium Thursday. The Trojans lost to Remington 32-15 Friday in Hillsboro. Remington (6-2, 2-0) has won District 9. The winner of the Thursday?s game in Hillsboro will advance to the Class 3A state playoffs as the district runner-up.