In a game that began with a lackluster first-half performance by Marion, the Warrior football team ended it in dominating fashion to enjoy a 44-21 victory over Sedgwick Friday.
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, Marion outscored the Cardinals 38-7 after intermission to spoil Sedgwick’s homecoming in what coach Grant Thierolf said was Marion’s first win over the Cardinals since joining the Heart of America league.
Thierolf attributed the contrast in halves to his team’s maturity in battling through adversity.
“They bowed their necks and we challenged them, and we realized that hanging in there and doing things is part of life, and I was really pleased with how well they played,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt when your first offensive play in the second half goes for a touchdown. That swings momentum real fast. That was a good way to start, and then it just kind of rolled downhill from there.”
Sedgwick ran all over the Warrior defense to start the game, leading to a touchdown less than three minutes in. Conversely, Marion’s offense netted just 1 yard on its first three plays from scrimmage.
Marion later was unable to capitalize on an interception catch by Mason Pedersen. The first quarter ended with Sedgwick leading, 7-0. The Cardinals added to their lead with a 38-yard touchdown pass with 9:34 left in the first half. The extra-point kick made it 14-0.
Midway through the second period, Jack Schneider connected with Pedersen for a 56-yard touchdown pass on first down, putting Marion on the board, 14-6.
Sedgwick fumbled the ball away on its final possession of the half, and Marion covered 43 yards in two plays, only to have Schneider’s pass intercepted in the end zone. Sedgwick led, 14-6 at halftime.
“We didn’t play very well (in the first half),” Thierolf said. “I think it was in part because Sedgwick’s a good football team, but in part because we just hadn’t seen that style of play yet. It took us a little bit of time for our linebackers and D-line to get accustomed to what their blocking scheme was and what they were doing. It wasn’t coaching adjustments, the players made the adjustments and just made plays better.”
Marion began the second half with an intensity that was absent in the first half.
Schneider lit the fire with a 49-yard touchdown sprint on the first play to tie the game at 14 after Corbin Wheeler’s two-point conversion.
Marion’s defense matched that intensity, as Garrett Hoffner intercepted a Cardinal pass three plays into Sedgwick’s first drive. That led to a second rushing touchdown for Schneider, this time from 6 yards out to cap a five-play, 43-yard drive to give Marion its first lead, 20-14.
Marion continued its solid play, forcing a Cardinal three-and-out. On the first play of Marion’s ensuing drive, Wheeler took the ball, dodged a potential tackler and rushed for a 52-yard score. Aaron Riggs’ two-point conversion made it 28-14.
Wheeler scored again late in the third quarter. Having rushed for a 19-yard gain on the first play of the drive, Wheeler got the nod a second time and ran for a 23-yard touchdown. That made it 36-14, which held through the end of the quarter.
A defensive play set up Marion’s final score. With Sedgwick in possession at midfield, Tyler Palic tipped a Cardinal pass and Peyton Heidebrecht intercepted it. Three plays later, Marion was in the end zone again, this time on a 10-yard run by Riggs, who added the two-point conversion for a 44-14 margin with 4:09 to play. That marked 38 unanswered points since halftime.
With Thierolf sending in reserves, Sedgwick orchestrated one final scoring drive, crossing the goal line with 31 seconds left, bringing it to the final, 23-point spread.
Marion rolled up 330 yards of offense compared to 302 for Sedgwick. Marion rushed for 203 yards, led by Wheeler with seven carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Through the air, Schneider was 4-for-10 for 127 yards and one touchdown.
“We knew that this was the year that if we’re going to win league—which is one of our goals—we’ve got to win here, and we’ve got to win on the road, and it was just fun,” Thierolf said. “It was fun to see the kids get excited and play together and just kind of revel in what they were doing.”
Coming—Marion (3-0) will host Remington Friday for homecoming. Remington (0-3) enters the game after a 30-6 loss to Hutchinson Trinity.