“I thought the kids had a good week of practice,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “It all starts, really, with our young kids. They get the inglorious position of running the other team’s plays and the other team’s defenses, and they give us a great picture of what the opposition is doing.
“When you get those repetitions done at close to game speed, that helps you tremendously, and that’s what our kids are doing.”
Marion set the tone from the start, as the Warriors cut Sterling’s first two drives short with interceptions and turned them into touchdowns on the other end of the field.
On the game’s opening drive, Mason Pedersen intercepted a Black Bear pass near the goal line, and the Warriors covered nearly the length of the field to put their first touchdown on the board. Jack Schneider rushed for a 25-yard score to cap the 96-yard drive, giving Marion a 6-0 lead at the 4:31 mark.
Tyler Palic intercepted a pass to cut Sterling’s next drive short, and Marion once again capitalized. Following a penalty, Aaron Riggs rushed for a 45-yard gain to start the drive, and two plays into the second quarter, Schneider crossed the goal line from six yards out to cap the seven-play, 73-yard drive. Riggs’ two-point conversion run made it 14-0 with 11:11 left in the first half.
After the teams traded punts, Marion pinned the Black Bears deep in their own territory. Sterling, however, covered 99 yards in nine plays and scored on a 63-yard touchdown pass with just 1:14 left in the half. That made it 14-8, a score which held through halftime.
The Warriors came out firing on all cylinders after halftime, scoring four more touchdowns while keeping Sterling out of the end zone, aside from a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Aided by a 22-yard sprint by Schneider on the fourth play of Marion’s second-half opening drive, the Warriors punched in another score four plays later on a 6-yard Schneider run. That made it 20-8 at the 8:36 mark.
Following a Sterling turnover on downs that fueled Marion’s fire, Schneider scored his fourth touchdown of the night on Marion’s next possession. His 34-yard touchdown run extended Marion’s lead to 28-8 after his two-point conversion pass completion to Bryce Shults.
Sterling returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to draw within 28-14, but it was all Marion after that. The third quarter ended with Marion threatening to score at the Black Bear 5-yard line, and Schneider scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to increase Marion’s lead to 36-14.
Riggs scored Marion’s final touchdown on a 2-yard run with 4:56 left in the game, and Pedersen recorded his second interception of the night on Sterling’s first play from scrimmage, allowing Marion to run out the final 4:36.
Marion tallied 479 yards of offense, compared to 204 for Sterling. The Warriors rushed for 441 yards, led by Riggs with 28 carries for 182 yards and one touchdown. Schneider rushed for 176 yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries. Through the air, Schneider was 2-for-5 for 38 yards.
Coming—Marion (5-0) will host Hutchinson Trinity (4-1) Friday in its final game before district play. The Celtics enter the game after defeating Ell-Saline, 8-0.