In a Class 3A district battle between two Marion County teams, Marion prevailed over Hillsboro by a score of 42-14 Friday.
It was a one-possession game for three quarters of play, but Marion broke the game open by scoring four, fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“We’ve been a strong second-half team all year long,” Marion coach Grant Thierolf said. “It wasn’t a matter, really, of not having opportunities to score (in the first half), we just didn’t do it. We finished things off in the second half and just kept persevering.”
Marion put two touchdowns on the board in the first quarter, striking first on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jack Schneider to cap an 11-play, 50-yard drive. Then, two plays after Zachary Stuchlik intercepted a Trojan pass, Corbin Wheeler sprinted for a 5-yard score. That gave Marion a 12-0 lead, which held through the end of the first quarter.
The period ended with Hillsboro on the move, however, and the Trojans punched in their first score of the night on the third play of the second quarter.
Jorge Hanschu crossed the goal line from 9 yards out to cap the 12-play, 69-yard drive. The drive was highlighted by a 17-yard pass from Kaden Kleiner to Elliot Ollenburger, and later, a 22-yard sprint by Kleiner to put the Trojans in the red zone. With 11:07 to play in the first half, Hillsboro had cut Marion’s lead in half, 12-6.
The score remained that way through the end of the third quarter, although an inadvertent whistle negated what would have been a 75-yard touchdown run by Schneider on Marion’s next possession. In the end, the Trojans came up with a fourth-down stop at their own 9-yard line, and the Warriors held a six-point lead at halftime.
With Marion threatening to score on its first possession after intermission, the Trojans forced and recovered a Warrior fumble in the red zone. As it was, neither team scored in the third quarter.
Marion, however, scored the first of four fourth-quarter touchdowns three plays into the final period on a 5-yard run by Schneider. Mason Pedersen’s two-point conversion reception from Schneider extended the Warriors’ lead to 20-6.
Pedersen cut Hillsboro’s next drive short with an interception on third down, and Marion needed three plays to score, this time on a 46-yard run by Schneider. Aaron Riggs’ two-point conversion run made it 28-6 with 8:34 to play.
Marion added a touchdown on its next possession when Schneider crossed the goal line from 3 yards out. That made it 34-6.
The Trojans responded by piecing together a 73-yard scoring drive. Hanschu gained 14 yards on the first play of the drive, and Hillsboro benefitted from a pair of Warrior penalties. Brooks Gardner rushed for a 2-yard touchdown on the seventh play of the drive, and Kleiner connected with Jacob Funk for the two-point conversion pass. That trimmed Marion’s lead to 34-14 with 50 seconds left in the game.
Hillsboro attempted an onside kick, and the ball bounced into the hands of Bryce Shults, who returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. Riggs added the two-point conversion, bringing it to the final, 42-14 margin.
“We played with a lot of passion, and we played competitively all night long,” Hillsboro coach Devin Metzinger said. “The final score is not indicative of the way we played. There were just a lot of little mistakes that turned into big plays for them and points on the board for them.
“I’m extremely proud of the way they fought for four quarters—the competitiveness they had all game. But we’ve got to start eliminating those mistakes.”
Marion recorded 376 yards of offense; Hillsboro had 204.
The Warriors rushed for 316 yards, led by Schneider with 23 carries for 169 yards and four touchdowns. Riggs also exceeded the century mark with 23 carries for 104 yards. Through the air, Schneider was 4-for-10 for 60 yards.
Hillsboro, meanwhile, rushed for 108 yards, led by Hanschu with 10 carries for 49 yards and one touchdown. Through the air, Kleiner was 9-for-20 for 96 yards.
Coming—With the win, Marion improved to 1-1 in district play, 7-1 overall. Hillsboro moved to 0-2, 2-6.
In other district action Friday, Hesston defeated Southeast of Saline, 34-26, and leads the district with a 2-0 record, 5-3 overall. SES moved to 1-1, 7-1.
District play continues Thursday when Marion will travel to Hesston, and Hillsboro will host Southeast of Saline. Kickoff for both games is set for 7 p.m.
Don Ratzlaff also contributed to this story.