Marion undefeated in HOA after 38-6 win over Celtics

Aaron Riggs takes the handoff from quarterback Jack Schneider during the second quarter against Hutchinson Trinity Friday. Marion defeated the Celtics, 38-6, to improve to 6-0 in Heart of America league play. The only league school the Warriors will not play is Ell-Saline, essentially giving Marion the league title.The Marion football team concluded the regular season with a 38-6 victory over Hutchinson Trinity Friday. The win improved Marion’s record to 6-0 in Heart of America league play.

The Warriors got off to a shaky start as Trinity methodically marched downfield and scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to cap a 14-play, 71-yard drive in which the Celtics did not even attempt a pass. The two-point conversion attempt failed, giving Trinity a 6-0 lead. Marion’s first drive stalled, and Trinity led by that same score at the end of the first quarter.

“I thought they just came out and physically whipped us in the first quarter, and we never caught up to the speed of the game,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “We’ve got to be better next week and in the subsequent weeks about being aggressive and playing up to speed in the first quarter and in the first series.”

Marion’s defense buckled down following that game-opening drive, and the Warrior offense got going, too.

During Marion’s first possession of the second quarter, Jack Schneider completed a 19-yard pass to Peyton Heidebrecht on the sixth play of the drive. That set up a 48-yard touchdown sprint by Schneider on the next play, who added the two-point conversion to put Marion in front, 8-6.

The Warrior defense slipped up on Trinity’s ensuing possession, allowing the Celtics to convert on fourth-and-11 from the Warrior 24-yard line to bring up first-and-goal from the 10. But the Celtics lost 3 yards in four plays to put the ball back in Marion’s hands, and Schneider sprinted 87 yards for a touchdown on Marion’s first play from scrimmage. Aaron Riggs’ run made it 16-6, a margin that held through halftime.

Marion faltered by fumbling away the second-half kickoff, but the Warrior defense forced a turnover on downs. On Marion’s first play of its next drive, Schneider hit Mason Pedersen for a 72-yard touchdown strike, extending the Warriors’ lead to 22-6. The score remained that way through the end of the period, thanks to a goal-line stand by the Warriors that kept Trinity out of the end zone despite the Celtics setting up first-and-goal at the Warrior 5.

“You obviously never like to fumble the opening kickoff, but I thought our defense responded well,” Thierolf said. “The first play of the second half, really, for us was a long pass to Mason. Jack makes a nice throw, (we) have great protection, and Mason makes a nice catch and runs it in. That was a nice way to start and gives us a cushion enough where I think our kids just relaxed and played after that.”

Marion added a pair of scores in the final quarter, first on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Schneider to Heidebrecht to cap a 10-play, 72-yard drive, and later on a 37-yard touchdown run by Corbin Wheeler with 4:40 left in the game. Riggs’ two-point conversion run brought it to the final, 38-6 spread.

Marion rolled up 359 yards of offense, compared with 229 for Trinity. Marion had possession for just 11:35, while Trinity’s time of possessions was 36:25. The Warriors tallied 262 rushing yards, led by Schneider with nine carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Through the air, Schneider was 3-for-3 for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

Tyler Palic led the defense with 18 tackles, including two tackles for a loss.

“We know that we didn’t play our best football the whole game tonight,” Thierolf said. “With a junior-senior dominant team, kids will respond to that, and I think they’ll get excited for the opportunity to play Southeast of Saline.”

Coming—Marion (6-0) will open district play by hosting Southeast of Saline Friday at 7 p.m. The Trojans (6-0) come into the game following a 48-26 win over Beloit.

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