MHS football suffers first defeat to Northern Heights

Janae Rempel / Free Press<p>Jack Schneider rushes for a 46-yard touchdown on the game?s opening drive. Marion suffered its first loss of the season to Northern Heights, 34-24.

The Marion football team saw a 24-14 halftime lead over Northern Heights turn into a 34-24 deficit when the final whistle blew Friday.

The Warriors searched in vain for any sense of rhythm offensively in the second half, and struggled on defense to contain a Wildcat offense boasting two rushers and one receiver exceeding the 100-yard mark.

?I don?t think we ever had a possession where we moved the ball effectively in the second half at all,? coach Grant Thierolf said. ?We never got into a rhythm anywhere offensively, and it?s hard to play football when you can?t do that.?

Things clicked for the Warriors early, however, as Marion scored one minute into the game when Jack Schneider ran for a 46-yard touchdown. Schneider?s two-point conversion gave Marion an 8-0 lead.

Just as quickly, Northern Heights capped a five-play, 64-yard scoring drive with a 26-yard touchdown run. The extra-point kick made it 8-7 at the 9:31 mark.

The Warriors needed just three plays to score after that, thanks to a 69-yard pass completion from Schneider to Mason Pedersen that set up an 8-yard Peyton Heidebrecht score on the next play. Marion took a 16-7 lead, which held through the first break, as the teams traded punts.

The teams traded fumbles in the second quarter.

Northern Heights missed a field goal?the ball was scooped up by Marion, but an inadvertent whistle stopped play and resulted in a second kick attempt for the Wildcats. The second try also missed.

The Wildcats closed the gap to 16-14 with a 63-yard touchdown run by Theron Row just two plays into their next drive. Pedersen returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but it was negated by a holding penalty.

Marion pieced together what would be its final scoring drive of the night right before halftime. Schneider completed back-to-back passes to Heidebrecht and Corbin Wheeler for 19 and 14 yards, respectively. Three plays later, Schneider connected with Pedersen in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown strike. Schneider?s two-point conversion gave Marion a 24-14 halftime lead.

Northern Heights marched nearly the length of the field after intermission, piecing together a 95-yard drive that devoured nearly half of the third quarter. The drive was capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass, making it 24-20.

?I thought we had momentum at the end of the first half, and then they came right out and drove the ball down on us, six minutes in the third quarter, and just dominated the line of scrimmage,? Thierolf said. ?That kind of set the tone for the second half.?

After a Warrior punt, Northern Heights took the lead, 27-24, thanks to a 63-yard catch and run that went for a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the quarter.

The Warriors? next two drives ended in a turnover on downs and an interception. With a short field, Northern Heights was in the end zone in three running plays courtesy of leading rusher Trent Burd, who finished the night with 27 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown. That made it 34-24 with 3:42 to go. Marion had two more possessions sandwiching a Northern Heights fumble recovered by Garrett Hoffner, but both ended in interceptions, allowing Northern Heights to run out the clock.

Marion had 303 yards of total offense, including 145 rushing led by Aaron Riggs with 14 carries for 64 yards. Through the air, Schneider was 10-for-21 for 158 yards and one touchdown.

Northern Heights rolled up 473 yards of offense.

?We?re just not playing well right now,? Thierolf said. ?We?ve got to play better, and until we make that decision as a full team to play better, we?ll get results like this.?

Coming?Marion falls to 1-1 in district play, 5-1 overall. The Warriors will take a break from district play when undefeated and state-ranked Meade comes to town Friday. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

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