Second-half surge lifts MHS past Lyons in season opener


Marion quarterback Mitchell Leppke strains to break loose from a Lyons defender during the second half of Friday?s 21-6 win.

The Marion High School football team began its season with a 21-6 win at Lyons, and breathed a collective sigh of relief when the final horn sounded.

?Sometimes in the first game of the year everybody?s a little tight, and that?s part of what happened,? coach Grant Thierolf said. ?But we also did not play with much fire or emotion.?

?But we didn?t have to make any big adjustments during halftime?there wasn?t fire and brimstone in the locker room?we just said, ?we did not work so hard all summer long to play like that,? he said.

After one truly forgettable first half, the Warriors trailed Lyons 6-0 after numerous bad penalties allowed the Lions to sustain a drive into the red zone.

On the opening series, Marion forced a 3-and-out that was wiped out by a roughing the punter penalty. But tough defense kept the mistake from making a mark on the scoreboard, as Lyons was forced to punt again three downs later.

Marion?s first series also ended with a punt. Lyons then ran three plays to lose four yards on its second drive, punting to hem the Warriors in deep in their own territory.

Marion?s second drive consisted of a 7-play set that ended in another punt. Lyons took over near midfield and obtained two first downs?one with a screen pass, one with a fourth-and-2 halfback dive by Payton Griffitt.

Marion halted the drive on the subsequent second down, when Mitch Cady forced a fumble recovered by Nick Klenda.

Marion then put together an 11-play drive from their own 30 to the Lyons 38, but fumbled on a third-and-1 try. Adam Regnier recovered to allow Marion to punt?a booming kick by Luke Gordon that bounced inside the 10 yard line but carried into the endzone for a touchback.

Aided by two penalties?an obvious pass interference call and a mysterious personal foul call?the Lions marched off six first downs before the Marion defense stiffened.

Having brought up third-and-2, Klenda looked to have ended the drive with a 14 yard sack of Jake Craig that very nearly took Lyons out of field goal range.

Unfortunately for Marion, when Lyons lined up for the kick try, the snap to holder Brennan Clark was low enough to wreck the design of the play.

Clark took off with the ball and roared through an opening around the right flank, where he met little resistence on the way to the end zone. The run officially went for 26 yards with 50 seconds left in the half. Lyons missed the point after.

?It was a busted play, something that we haven?t really worked on in practice because you see so few field goals during the year,? Thierolf said.

?The key was, we did not stay in leverage when the play broke down,? he explained. ?The key to defend that is for our guys is to stay in leverage, to hold lanes like on any other defensive play, rather than just running straight at the ball.?

Marion regrouped during halftime and flattened Lyons during the first series of the third quarter, driving 74 yards in 13 plays to score the go-ahead touchdown.

The drive consumed over six minutes of clock time, all of the Lions momentum, and most of the hosts’ energy.

?Our offensive line should perform better than we did in the first half, and we did,? Thierolf said. ?We have a little more depth than (Lyons) and we wore them out.?

Sheldon Boone broke a 25-yard run from near midfield and Mitchell Leppke capped the drive with an 11-yard bolt through the middle.

The Marion defense allowed a 36-yard carry by Griffitt on the next play, but allowed practically nothing for the remainder of the game. The defensive surge began as Luke Gordon and Eric Vogel obliterated a screen pass on third and 8, throwing junior quarterback Jake Craig to the grass 21 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

After getting the ball back at its own 27, Marion connected on a 36-yard pass play to Nick Klenda?a 21-yard reception and a 15-yard personal foul tacked on for a late hit on the tackle.

A moment later, Marion blasted another score into the Lyons end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run by Sheldon Boone, taking a 13-6 lead with 1:41 left in the third.

Marc Washington had a 15-yard run in that series, but was just getting warmed up. Two possessions later, Washington took a handoff around the right flank and finding an open field in front of him, Washington lit the afterburners, accelerating through the Lyons secondary, outrunning all pursuers for a 79-yard score with 4:03 remaining.

?There was great blocking at the point of attack by Nick Klenda, Brad Klenda and Sheldon Boone, and Marc did a great job of hitting the hole,? Thierolf said. ?He shook a couple of tackles, got into the open field, and outran everybody.?

?And (Lyons) has some fast kids over there,? Thierolf noted. ?His speed is something we?ve never had before.?

Sheldon Boone made a 2-point conversion for a 21-6 lead.

Lyons next play resulted in an interception by Tylor Neil of a pass deflected by Drew Maddox, and the turnover effectively ended the game with 3:43 to go.

Marion traded punts with Lyons, and the Warriors might have scored again, meeting little resistence on two runs after taking over at the Lyons 20-yard line with less than a minute to go.

Instead, Leppke knelt to run out the clock for Marion?s first victory of the season.

Coming?Marion plays its first home game of 2008, hosting Collegiate at 7 p.m. Friday.

Thierolf said that the Warriors will have to be ?sharp in every phase of the game? and will need a substantially better showing on special teams to keep up with the Spartans.

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