Marion?s Colten Johnson made the running back position look easy during the first three games of the season. The Warriors? leading rusher even exceeded the 200-yard mark during a game.
But Friday it seemed Mound?ridge?s goal was to try and stop the star senior, and the Wildcats did, holding him to 54 yards. In the meantime, the Wildcats forgot about someone else in the Warrior backfield.
Quarterback Cole Lewman burned the Wildcats while running the option most of the game. The senior rushed 10 times for 102 yards and three scores in the 21-20 victory.
?When you run the option, you take what the defense gives you,? Marion coach Grant Thierolf said. ?When teams key on Colten or the fullback, then other options open for us. Cole did a nice job of making the right decisions as he read down the line.?
Marion ran the option well all night, amassing 163 yards. But Moundridge actually outgained Marion in total offense, 281 yards to 201. What won the game for Marion were timely plays on both sides of the ball.
After a 7-7 tie through three quarters, both teams began to move the ball. Marion had more key plays that helped secure the victory.
After the Wildcats scored on a Trey Unrau run to take a 14-7 lead with 9:46 left in the game, Marion answered with a 10-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 12-yard run by Lewman. The key play on the drive came on third-and-four from the Marion 35. Lewman hit wide receiver Jacob Harper with a 28-yard bomb to the Wildcat 37, keeping the drive alive.
?That was a great pass by Cole and a great catch by Jacob,? Thierolf said. ?It is something we should be doing more of, and we will as the season goes on. Also, it was very good pass protection from the offensive line.?
Marion decided to go for two points but was stymied near the goal line. Trailing 14-13 with about six minutes left in the game, the Warriors kicked off. Facing the possibility of not getting another chance on offense, the defense stepped up and stopped Moundridge on fourth-and-one from the Marion 44.
After Lewman took a crushing hit on the third play from scrimmage, Moundridge intercepted the ball and looked like it had wrapped up the game. But a pass-interference call gave the ball back to Marion.
Lewman then scored on a keeper from 21 yards out on the next play. Johnson took a sweep into the end zone for the 2-point conversion, and Marion led 21-14 with 2:41 left.
Thierolf was impressed with his team?s composure after missing the earlier 2-point attempt.
?We came out and held them and forced a fourth down that did not get converted, so it was a big series for the defense at that point,? he said.
The game wasn?t quite over, though. On the fifth play of the next drive, Unrau went almost untouched up the middle for a 47-yard score. Following the Warriors? lead, the Wildcats decided to go for two points. But Marion?s defense stacked the line and stopped Unrau before he could cross it.
In a fitting end, Lewman recovered the Wildcats? onside kick to secure the victory.
Thierolf said he told his team to keep plugging despite putting up only seven points through three quarters.
?We just told them we could move the ball and that we just needed to hang in there,? he said. ?We knew that someone would make a play and that we would be able to get something going as long as they worked together and kept doing the things that we had practiced.?
Coming?Now 4-0, MHS will travel Friday to Sedgwick, which also stands at 4-0 for the season. Both teams are 3-0 in the Heart of America league.
?We feel good at this point but we will have to play better and more focused than we did (Friday) the rest of the year,? Thierolf said. ?But sometimes you have to win games that are very tight in order to move forward and hopefully that is what we did.?