Big plays on defense led the Marion Warriors to a 20-7 season-opening victory Friday night in Lyons.
Bending, but only breaking once, the Warrior defense came up with play after play to stop the Lions? momentum.
On Lyons? first offensive series, defensive end Les Riggs sacked quarterback Matthew Vincent on third-and-20 to force a punt. But a Lion penalty on the return moved the home team back to its own 5-yard line for fourth-and-45.
The ensuing short punt gave Marion its first possession at the Lyons 34-yard line.
Riggs started the three-play, 34-yard touchdown scoring drive with runs of seven and 12 yards. Colten Johnson then ran in from 15 yards out.
After a failed two-point conversion, Marion led 6-0 with 9:24 left in the first quarter.
Lyons scored its only touchdown after a short punt by Marion. On the return, Lyons? Taylor Stonebraker was taken off the field on a stretcher after a clean hit by Corey Hiebert.
Once play resumed, Vincent found wide receiver Brenden Lewis for a 12-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal. The extra-point gave MHS a 7-6 lead with 8.8 seconds left in the quarter.
Lyons threatened again in the second quarter after it recovered a Dillon Richmond fumble at the Marion 18-yard line.
This time it was Johnson who stalled the Lyons? offensive possession, intercepting a Vincent pass for a 23-yard touchdown return.
?I was just playing my zone,? Johnson said. ?The quarterback just threw it right to me.?
Another failed 2-point conversion kept Marion?s lead at 12-7 with 6:16 left in the half.
With less than two minutes left in the half, Lyons? Kregg Clarke recovered a Richmond fumble caused by a Vincent sack.
On Lyons? first play on the ensuing possession, defensive back Randy Regnier plucked a Vincent pass to give the ball back to the Warriors.
?Our defense was putting a lot of pressure on their quarterback,? Regnier said. ?It made him throw bad passes. It was in my coverage lane in my zone.?
Marion ran the ball three times to end the half at 12-7.
In the second half, a couple of big plays on defense set up the Warriors? final score. Line?backer Conner Thierolf halted a Lyons drive in Warrior territory by sacking the quarterback on third-and-5 at the 48-yard line.
After Marion?s Mikael Antosyk returned the ensuing punt to the Marion 34, Rich?mond completed a 52-yard pass to Dakin Ledford that took MHS to the Lyons 14-yard line.
?We had great protection,? coach Grant Thierolf said. ?It was a great call by (assistant coach) Shaun Craft. We sold the run real well. We hadn?t thrown but one other time.?
Marion scored eight plays later on a two-yard Riggs run with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Warriors completed the 2-point conversion to lead 20-7.
The next possession, Lyons used the pass to move the ball upfield, but its drive ended on defensive plays by Ledford and Regnier.
On third-and-10 from the Warrior 21-yard line, Ledford sacked the quarterback for a nine-yard loss. Regnier grabbed his second interception on the next play, returning the ball into Lyons? territory.
One more Marion fumble gave Lyons the ball deep in Warrior territory late in the fourth quarter. But the defense had one more big play left.
Facing fourth-and-4 from the 19-yard line, Lyons came up short on the run, but was awarded the first down on a facemask penalty.
But Marion regained possession with a fumble recovery on the next play.
?We gave up one touchdown to a good offensive team,? Thierolf said. ?We needed to settle down and just make plays.?
Thierolf said he will emphasize taking care of the football in practice, but said with the option offense the ball will pop lose sometimes.
?You try not to put fumbles in the minds of people,? he said. ?The type of offense we have, where there?s exchanges and pitches and everything else, those are going to happen. You try to minimize them as much as you can.?
Riggs led the Warriors with 16 rushes for 72 yards. Johnson ran the ball six times for 43 yards.
Richmond was 2-for-2 passing for 78 yards, 52 yards to Ledford and 26 to Regnier.
Conner Theirolf led the defense with 13 tackles. Regnier had six tackles, two interceptions. Johnson had five tackles and one interception. Cole Lewman recorded six tackles.
Coming?Marion (1-0) will host Inman (1-0) Friday in a Heart of America league contest.