Marion’s football season came to a close with a 28-22 loss at Pleasanton Thursday in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Blu-Jays scored a pair of second quarter touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead by halftime.
“We had a few offensive plays in the first half where we didn’t stay on blocks—that could have sprung some big runs,” coach Shaun Craft said. “Defensively, we forgot to do our assignments on a couple plays, and they took advantage of those opportunities.”
But Marion rallied after intermission, scoring its first touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Chase Stringer to Eli Hett, and, less than three minutes later, tying the game at 14-14 when Stringer connected with Hett for a second touchdown pass, this time for 54 yards.
Pleasanton, however, scored with 2:43 left in the period to regain the lead by the end of the third quarter, 20-14.
The Blu-Jays added to their lead with a fourth-quarter touchdown that made it 28-14. With 23 seconds to play, Stringer completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Sam Zinn, bringing it to the final, six-point spread.
“Probably the few big things that could have made a difference (in the outcome) were two big penalties that gave them a first down instead of 4th-and-long,” Craft said. “And on one play their quarterback fumbled the ball, and it popped back up right into his hands.”
Marion recorded 262 yards of offense, a majority of which came in the passing game. Stringer was 9-for-17 for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Hett was Stringer’s top target, hauling in four receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
The Warriors gained 93 yards rushing, led by Evann Heidebrecht with 21 carries for 82 yards.
Pleasanton, meanwhile, recorded 307 yards of offense.
Neither team turned the ball over.
For 11 seniors, it was their final game in a Warrior uniform: Noah Dalrymple, Ethan Darnall, Heidebrecht, Hett, Noah Kukuk, Colton Mercer, Blaine Mermis, Brandon Nguyen, Jarred Rahe, Stringer and Zinn.
“Some of the guys rarely ever missed a day in the weight room and came to work every day and gave it all they had,” Craft said. “I just told them I appreciated them continuing to keep working all season when at times it would have been easy to give up or quit.”
Marion concludes the season with an overall record of 2-7. In reflecting on his first year as head coach, Craft said:
“It was definitely a learning experience. There’s a few things I would have done differently now looking back, but for the most part, besides not winning as many games as we would have liked, the season went well. I appreciate the work the guys put into this season and to fight till the very last whistle.”