Pictured are eight Marion defenders swarming Bryant Beneke.
Andrew Ottoson / Free Press
One score was all it took to beat the Marion High School football team Friday night, but host Southeast of Saline punched in two and added two 2-point conversions for a 16-0 win over the Warriors.
Marion's offense misfired at important moments throughout the night; the defense shot itself in the foot with an encroachment foul after stuffing the Trojans on first-and-goal at the six late in the first quarter.
?We always talk about five to six plays making the difference in a close ball game and SES made those plays,? coach Grant Thierolf said. ?Our defense played very well. We defended them better than we did a year ago, forced a number of punts, and forced some three-and-outs. The only thing that we did not do was force more turnovers.?
Marion was flagged for just four penalties totaling 17 yards.
But the early encroachment foul, followed by a hard-nosed run by Brant Weaver, brought up fourth down with the ball near the one yard hash. Bryant Beneke finished the drive with a plunge, Weaver added the 2-point conversion and the SES defense turned the early score into a back-breaker.
?We will get better on offense,? Thierolf said. ?We will just take the things that we did well on Friday and work to improve them, take the things that we did not do well and correct them, and have a great week of practice.?
The Trojans had consecutive big gainers called back by penalty early in the second quarter, and were held without another score before halftime.
The Marion defense limited SES to 3.7 yards per play over the course of the evening and forced the Trojans? only turnover at 7:18 of the third quarter.
With their offense starting in the red zone following Sheldon Boone's interception return, the Warriors had a pass intercepted in the end zone on first down.
SES took advantage of the giveaway?and the second ill-timed encroachment penalty of the night. Immediately after converting a fourth-and-a-foot when Marion lined up offside, the Trojans opened lane for Weaver. His run went for 47 yards and, combined with a pass from Beneke to Braden Long, doubled the SES lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter.
Beneke managed 3.8 yards per carry and completed just a third of his 21 pass attempts, in part because the Marion defensive line batted down four of his throws.
?I thought our whole defense played well,? Thierolf said. ?Beneke is a tough guy to control and we did alright limiting the damage that he can do.?
The Warriors stoked a lifeless offense with an eight-play series that covered 57 yards with help from two Trojans penalties, but a fumble on first-and-goal from the six all but extinguished their chances of rallying for a win.
Marion?s defense saw the situation differently and displayed the greatest urgency they offered all night, stuffing a fourth-and-short with 4:51 left. But the ensuing offensive series ended with a turnover on downs.
The Warriors regained possession with 1:27 to go. With about 30 seconds left Dakin Ledford caught a 28-yard pass from Matt Sprowls near the SES 20-yard line. It was the only pass Marion completed among 12 attempts.
?We need to be solid in all three phases of the game this week,? Thierolf said. ?We will just keep working on things to get our game up to a championship level.?
As a team, Marion totaled 160 yards on 50 carries; Boone totaled 69 yards on 19 attempts.
Coming?Marion will face cross-county rival Hillsboro; Marion would need both the win and a significant margin of victory to advance, while Hillsboro would clinch the district title with a win regardless of the final score.