The Marion football team had little trouble securing the Class 2-1A District 3 title with a 72-14 rout at Mission Valley Thursday. Both teams entered the contest with 3-0 district records, but Marion established its dominance from the start.
?We don?t ever like it to be thought of as running the score up or anything like that,? coach Grant Thierolf said. ?It?s just one of those games that got out of hand much sooner than we thought it would.
?At the same time, our kids came out focused. They came out ready to play, and they were very aggressive right from the start, which is what we want.?
When the Warrior defense forced a three-and-out on the game?s opening drive, Kyle Palic set the tone early by blocking the Viking punt. Jacob Baldwin recovered the ball at the Viking 16-yard line, and three plays later, Adam Janzen was in the end zone after a 3-yard run to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead.
Then, after the Vikings were penalized for a false start, the next snap sailed over quarterback Tanner Allen?s head. Tyler Neufeld recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a second Marion touchdown just 13 seconds after the first. Bald?win?s two-point conversion pass to Brad Stone made it 14-0.
Stone intercepted Mission Valley?s first-down pass, setting up Marion?s third score. The Warriors marched 24 yards in five plays, scoring on Baldwin?s 2-yard run for a 22-0 margin after Janzen?s two-point conversion.
Marion struck again following a Viking three-and-out. Facing third-and-10 at the Warrior 34-yard line, Baldwin threw a perfect strike to a wide-open Stone across the middle for a 67-yard touchdown. After Baldwin?s two-point conversion, Marion?s lead had increased to 30-0. That score held to the end of the first quarter.
Just as they had in the first quarter, the Warriors scored on every possession in the second. Marion scored less than three minutes into the period on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Baldwin to Mason Pedersen, and added another score when Janzen rumbled his way through the Viking defense for a 74-yard touchdown run on the first play of their next drive. With the run, Janzen surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the season. His touchdown gave Marion a 44-0 lead with 6:54 left in the half.
Mission Valley countered with a five-play scoring drive, set up by a 59-yard run by Allen to the Warrior 2-yard line. Three plays later, the Vikings were on the board and added the extra-point kick, making it 44-7.
It only took two plays for Marion to strike once more, this time on a 61-yard touchdown run by Baldwin, who broke tackles along the way to extend the lead to 50-7.
Marion got the ball back with 1:50 left in the half and punched in one more score, this time on a 21-yard pass from Baldwin to Corbin Wheeler. With Seth Snelling?s two-point conversion, Marion took a 58-7 lead into intermission.
A running clock was put into effect to start the third quarter, and Thierolf began clearing his bench. The Vikings managed the only score of the period on a 41-yard run by Dane Howe that made it 58-14 heading into the final quarter.
Marion responded with a score five plays in on a 9-yard run by Aaron Riggs, who added the two-point conversion for a 66-14 score with 9:11 to go.
After a Mission Valley fumble, Marion scored once more on a 5-yard run by Jarrett Johnson, bringing the score to the final, 72-14, margin, marking the most points Thierolf said the Warriors have scored in his tenure at Marion.
?We had a lot of kids just play hard,? he said. ?It?s fun to get the junior varsity in there, and the freshmen in there. I thought they ran the offense very well, and defensively, they made some plays, so it was just a fun night all the way around.?
Marion rolled up 517 yards of total offense, compared with 160 for Mission Valley, who gained all of its yardage on the ground. The Warriors tallied 378 yards rushing, led by Janzen, whose 11 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns put him at 1,054 yards rushing through nine games this season. It marks the second consecutive year he has surpassed 1,000 yards.
?It means a lot,? Janzen said. ?All the hard work we?ve put in. It all has paid off.?
Thierolf had high praise for the 5-foot, 9-inch, 193-pound senior.
?We?ve always known he was going to be a good running back, and he?s a very good linebacker, too, and he?s a great punter,? Thierolf said. ?Just an all-around football player. One of those guys that you center your team around because he?s a tough, hard-nosed kid.?
Baldwin also had another big night, carrying the ball eight times for 120 yards and two scores, and completing a perfect 4-for-4 for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
?I just am once again very pleased with Jacob,? Thierolf said. ?I thought Coach Craft and Coach Smith both had great game plans. (The Vikings) were obviously jumping Adam Janzen every chance they got, which just opened up the outside and opened up our passing game. ?
With the win, Marion clinched the District 3 championship, and Mission Valley, the district runners-up.
Coming?Marion (6-3) will host Lyndon (8-1) in a regional matchup to kickoff the playoffs Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
?We need to be ready to handle the speed of Lyndon,? Thierolf said. ?We need to be able to handle the physical nature they play. It?s going to be a great match because they?ve got some very good people there.?