Marion played the role of “unstoppable force” in its district opener, using an offensive juggernaut fueled by its ground game to wallop Southeast of Saline, 64-36, Friday at Assaria.
“I thought our offensive line was very good tonight,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “When you’ve got two running backs who run the ball as well as Jack (Schneider) and Corbin (Wheeler) do—they hit the hole hard.
“I thought the first three quarters, especially, tonight, Chase (Stringer) was right on top of things. We were reading the option very, very well, and we got the ball to the right person virtually every play, and that was good.”
The Warriors pounded out 687 yards on the ground, accounting for all but 11 of its total offense. Wheeler carried the ball 17 times for 290 yards and five touchdowns. Schneider added 195 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, while Evann Heidebrecht carried the ball six times for 114 yards and one touchdown.
Marion dealt with adversity early when a mishandled punt on the fourth play of the game gave the home-field Trojans new life at midfield. Five plays later, SES scored to take a 6-0 lead. But Marion, who scored on all six of its first-half possessions, responded when Wheeler scored the first of his two first-quarter touchdowns on a 51-yard sprint. Schneider’s two-point conversion run pushed Marion in front, 8-6.
SES regained the lead with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive, but a 57-yard run by Heidebrecht on first down led to a 10-yard touchdown run by Wheeler that evened the score at 14 apiece.
The Warriors took charge with four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter. Wheeler scored on a 5-yard run on a quarter-opening drive lasting 49 seconds, then Schneider scored the next touchdowns on runs of 2, 35- and 65 yards, respectively.
Marion enjoyed a 46-14 lead by halftime.
The Warriors had as many turnovers as touchdowns in the third quarter, bookending their two scoring drives with a second-half fumble and an interception on the last play of the period. In between, Wheeler ran for a 67-yard score and Evann Heidebrecht added a 10-yard run to cap a four-play, 51-yard drive.
SES, meanwhile, capitalized on the Marion fumble. From the Warrior 35-yard line, SES scored in three plays capped by a 29-yard run.
After Riley Hake intercepted a pass to end the Trojans’ next drive, Zachary Stuchlik caught the first of his two interceptions on SES’s next possession. The third quarter ended with Marion leading, 58-20.
The Trojans outscored Marion, 16-6, in the final period, thanks in part to a 71-yard return after Marion’s third-quarter ending interception. Starting at the Warrior 3-yard line, SES needed just one play to score. That made it 58-28 four seconds into the final period.
After Marion’s only punt of the game, SES scored its final touchdown a 12-yard pass with 5:25 left. But the Warriors needed just one play to score: Wheeler broke loose for a 59 yards to completing the 64-36 score with 5:14 to play.
“Coach (Shaun) Craft just did a great job calling the game, and the kids executed it,” Thierolf said. “After the first two series for them, our defense calmed down and got into a flow of things.”
In all, Marion rolled up 698 yards of offense, while SES recorded 460 yards.
Coming—Marion will take its 1-0 district record to Hillsboro (0-1) Friday for a 7 p.m. game. Hillsboro lost to Hesston Friday, 41-6.