Marion’s season ends at Hesston

Nathan Baldwin tackles Hesston quarterback Zach Esau in the end zone for a safety during the first quarter Thursday.Marion’s football season came to a close with a 57-24 loss at Hesston Thursday.

With a number of playoff scenarios possible going into the game, Marion needed at least a win to keep postseason hopes alive. As it was, Hillsboro defeated Southeast of Saline—to whom Marion lost 48-6—meaning a Marion win at Hesston would have catapulted the Warriors into the postseason.

However, it was not to be, as a game defined by momentum swings left the Warriors trailing in the end.

Quarterback Jack Schneider left the game in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury after colliding with a chain gang marker out of bounds. At that point in the game, Hesston held a 14-2 lead.

To get there, the Swathers scored their first touchdown just 1:01 into the game. Marion, meanwhile, was forced to punt on its opening possession, and Garrett Hoffner’s kick was downed at the 2-yard line. The Swathers then lost a yard in two plays before Nathan Baldwin tackled quarterback Zach Esau in the end zone for a safety to put Marion on the board. Hesston scored in four plays on its next possession, though, making it 14-2 at the 4:49 mark.

After Schneider left the game, Corbin Wheeler replaced him under center. But with the wind knocked out of their sails, the Warriors turned the ball over on downs at the Swather 24-yard line.

Hesston then marched 76 yards in five plays to score on a 5-yard touchdown run, taking a 20-2 lead as time expired in the first quarter.

The Swathers scored twice more in the second quarter, first on a 21-yard touchdown run, and later, on an 11-yard touchdown pass to cap a six-play, 69-yard drive. That made it 35-2 at halftime.

Marion came out after halftime with renewed determination. With Chase Stringer under center, the Warriors orchestrated their first scoring drive. Aaron Riggs lit the fire with a 46-yard run on first down, and three plays later, Stringer connected with Bryce Shults for a 44-yard touchdown pass. That made it 35-10 at the 10:06 mark.

Mason Pedersen intercepted a Swather pass to set up Marion’s next score—a 56-yard touchdown completion from Stringer to Shults on third down that narrowed the gap even further, 35-18, after Riggs’ two-point conversion run.

The Warrior defense forced a Hesston three-and-out, and Pedersen returned the punt 71 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, Marion was within 35-24, having scored 22 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter.

However, momentum swung Hesston’s way after that, as the Swathers scored 22 unanswered points of their own to end the game. Hesston sandwiched a Warrior fumble with a pair of touchdowns—first via a 21-yard run and then a 31-yard pass. By the end of the third quarter, Marion trailed, 50-24.

Hesston added its final score with 5:26 to play, capping a 48-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Marion fumbled the ball away on its next possession and did not get the ball back until 35 seconds remained in the game.

“We’ve got good character kids, and we knew they’d play hard,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “It’s a blow in the first half when you lose a kid of Jack’s abilities, and it just took us a little bit of time to rebound from that. We had a heck of a nice opening third quarter, and then I think we just kind of ran out of emotion there a little bit.”

Marion totaled 293 yards of offense; Hesston had 447. The Warriors rushed for 132 yards, led by Riggs with 15 carries for 97 yards. Through the air, Stringer was 5-for-9 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Schneider was 1-for-3 for 1 yard. Shults hauled in two receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

With the win, the Swathers won the district with a 3-0 record. Southeast of Saline was runner-up based on points. Marion concludes the season with a 102 district record and 7-2 overall.

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