Marion suffered its first football defeat of the season Friday, as Sterling upset the Warriors, 14-6, before a homecoming crowd.
Coach Grant Thierolf did not mince words about his team’s lack of toughness on the field.
“Sterling just flat took the game to us all night long,” Thierolf said. “They were more aggressive, they were more physical than we were, they were tougher than we were tonight. That was really the story of the game.”
The game started well enough, as Marion’s defense forced a three-and-out on Sterling’s opening drive. The Warriors followed that with a nine-play, 48-yard scoring drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Corbin Wheeler. The two-point conversion failed, leaving a 6-0 lead with 5:37 left in the opening quarter.
Sterling responded with a nine-play, 66-yard drive aided by a personal-foul penalty on fourth down. After that, a 15-yard pass completion in the end zone and ensuing extra-point kick pushed Sterling in front, 7-6. That score held as the quarter ended.
Marion enjoyed some bright spots. Kolton Brewer downed Garrett Hoffner’s punt at the 1-yard line, then Jack Schneider followed with an interception on the next play to record the first of two Warrior steals in the game.
But there were miscues as well. The Warrior defense surrendered 17 yards when Sterling faced fourth-and-4 at the Warrior 21-yard line. That set up a 4-yard touchdown run to cap a 13-play, 80-yard drive and bring the final to 14-6 with 3:19 left in the second quarter.
During Marion’s final drive before halftime, the Warriors gained 22 yards in two plays, then lost 15 yards in the next three, to characterize a “one step forward, two steps back” kind of night.
In the second half, Marion fumbled the ball away twice, had a pass intercepted and punted twice.
On defense, the Warriors forced two Black Bear punts and a turnover on downs, and Hoffner cut a drive short with an interception.
Marion had a chance to tie the game after forcing a Sterling turnover on downs with 1:32 to play, but lack of quarterback protection and a lost fumble four plays in allowed the Black Bears to run out the final seconds.
“They just physically whipped us,” Thierolf said. “Sometimes you’ve got to get punched in the mouth to get things figured out. We got punched in the mouth tonight, and it was a good, solid shot.”
Thierolf said the game will be a learning opportunity moving forward.
“If they respond properly, like I think they will, we’ll come out next week ready to play,” he said. “Life gives you these lessons all the time, and you’d better respond to it.”
Coming—Marion (4-1) travel to Hutchinson Trinity Friday for the Warriors’ final game before district play.