Offense was hard to come by for the Warriors in a 56-0 defeat at Cheney Saturday afternoon in a Class 3A regional contest.
The Warriors were limited to 126 yards of offense, partly result of eight turnovers: five lost fumbles and three interceptions.
Evann Heidebrecht led the Warrior ground game with 43 rushing yards on nine carries.
Cheney took advantage of the turnovers, rolling up 433 yards of offense. Riley Petz led the Cardinals’ rushing attack with 13 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Micah Grover added 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 12 carries.
Through the air, Grover was 6-for-10 for 133 yards and three touchdowns.
Cheney built a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, then added fuel to the fire with five second-quarter touchdowns, including a pick-six. By halftime, Marion trailed 49-0. One final touchdown by Cheney in the third quarter brought final spread.
“We never really even threatened to score,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “We turned the ball over eight times, which is enough to get you beat. We never helped ourselves once the whole game, and credit Cheney for that. They (are) just a very good football team, and we ran into them on a day where they were hot. We didn’t play well, and when that happens, it’s hard to have much success.”
Entering the game, Cheney had outscored opponents, 470-193. The Cardinals twice put up 74 points in wins over Belle Plaine and Sedgwick.
Marion ends the season with a record of 8-3. Cheney takes a 9-2 record into its next-round matchup with Marysville (10-1).
This was Marion’s first postseason appearance since 2014, having ended the regular season at 7-2 the past three years.
Marion’s bi-district win over Halstead earlier in the week gave the Warriors their first playoff win since 2013.
For 12 seniors—Kolton Brewer, Riley Hake, Caleb Hett, Garrett Hoffner, Jarret McLinden, Austin Neufeld, Tyler Palic, Jack Schneider, Zachary Stuchlik, Antone Vinduska, Jacob Vondenkamp and Corbin Wheeler—it was their final game in a Warrior jersey.
“It’s been an enjoyable season working with the kids,” Thierolf said. “Our senior group has won a lot of football games. They’ve been a part of quite a bit of success and have had a good career for the most part.
“Needless to say, we’d always like to go a little bit further in the playoffs, but as we told the kids, by the time you get to that second round, there are no bad teams left. You’ve got to play well, and we just didn’t play as well as we could have.”
Marion 54, Halstead 30
Class 3A bi-district game
Marion extinguished the fire of the Halstead Dragons Tuesday, earning a 54-30 bi-district victory on a chilly Halloween night.
In the first half, Marion matched the Dragons in touchdowns scored but failed to convert its two-point attempts, trailing 16-12 at halftime. The Warriors, however, exploded for 42 second-half points, including back-to-back-to-back touchdowns at the start—to seal the victory.
Each team scored on its opening possession, Halstead on a 16-yard touchdown run six plays into the game, and Marion on a 7-yard run by Evann Heidebrecht 10 plays later. It was the first of four touchdowns on the night for the Warrior junior.
In the second quarter, which included three turnovers—a pair of Marion fumbles and an interception by Zachary Stuchlik—Marion took advantage of a short field. After a sizeable punt return by Austin Neufeld, Marion covered 38 yards in four plays with Heidebrecht scoring his second touchdown from two yards out to push Marion in front, 12-8.
Halstead, however, started its next drive in Warrior territory and punched in a 5-yard score on the 10th play to lead, 16-12, at halftime.
Momentum began to shift the Warriors’ way when Stuchlik intercepted a Dragon pass in the end zone just seconds before intermission.
“I think that defensive stand at the end of the first half kind of energized us a little bit,” coach Grant Thierolf said. “We realized that all we’ve got to do is just keep doing what we do well, offensively, which was run the ball.”
The scoring barrage began when Heidebrecht, after rushing for a 46-yard gain two plays into the third quarter, crossed the goal line four plays later on a 7-yard touchdown run to push Marion in front, 18-16.
Stuchlik recovered a live ball on the ensuing kickoff—which was an inadvertent onside kick, Thierolf said—and the Warriors needed only seven plays to score. Chase Stringer capped the drive with a 27-yard pass to Garrett Hoffner.
Three plays into Halstead’s next drive, Corbin Wheeler stripped the ball and Stuchlik scooped it up and ran it back for a touchdown. That made it 32-16 with 4:49 left in the period, which held through the end of the period when Marion forced a Dragon turnover on downs after a sack by Antone Vinduska on fourth down.
Stringer scored on a 3-yard touchdown run three plays into the final period, marking 26 unanswered points by Marion.
“As we found out last year against Southeast of Saline, when a team scores three times real quick against you, it drops you,” Thierolf said. “But to Halstead’s credit, they came back and made a tight game of it.”
Proving they could strike quickly, the Dragons needed just two plays to score thanks to a 42-yard touchdown pass. Halstead scored again after a Marion fumble, this time on a 29-yard pass, making it a one-possession game, 38-30, with 7:08 to play.
Marion responded with a 27-yard touchdown run by Stringer, then forced a Dragon turnover on downs at the Halstead 12-yard line. The Warriors scored in two plays, with Heidebrecht recording his fourth touchdown, this time from nine yards out.
Stringer intercepted a Dragon pass with less than a minute to play, essentially sealing Marion’s 24-point win.
“Offensively, especially, our kids hung in there,” Thierolf said. “Our offensive line was pretty good tonight. We pounded the ball and did what we needed to do from an offensive standpoint. I was awfully proud of them.”
Marion rolled up 451 yards of offense, including 413 rushing yards. Heidebrecht carried the ball 30 times for 255 yards and four touchdowns.