After missing the Class 3A state playoffs in 2009 despite finishing 2-1 in District 9 play and defeating state playoff participant Hillsboro, 21-20, in the final game of the season, the Marion football team is in a new league for 2010.
Moving from the Mid-Central Activities Association to the realigned Heart of America League, the Warriors will join Sedgwick, Remington, Hutchin?son Trinity, Inman, Moundridge, Bennington and Ell-Saline.
In Marion?s final season in the MCAA, the Warriors finished 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the MCAA. The two league losses came at the hands of Wichita Collegiate, 21-14, and Hoisington, 32-6. Marion?s third loss was in Game 2 of district play at Southeast of Saline, 16-0.
Once again, Marion will play in District 9 with Hillsboro and Southeast of Saline. With Her?ington dropping to Class 2A, Remington will join the district.
Marion will open district play traveling to Remington Oct. 15 for the first game of district play. The Warriors host Southeast of Saline Oct. 22, then end district play at Hillsboro Oct. 28.
Even though Marion is in a new league and a slightly altered district, don?t expect much change in strategy from long-time Marion coach Grant Thierolf.
Marion will rely on a Georgia Tech-style wishbone offense that focuses on the running game.
For Marion, the foundation of its offense will be the offensive line, which is what Thierolf has spent a lot of time working with.
?I?m helping coach the offensive line this year with Mark Meyer,? he said. ?We?ve got that broken up where he?s responsible for this group and I?m responsible for another group. I?m sure there will be some overlap in all that, but we spend a lot of time with our offensive line.?
Three seniors will be returning to the offensive line: center Tim Costello and tackles Conner Thierolf and Adam Cope. Costello will provide leadership from the middle of the trenches.
?He?s doing a great job of leading up on the offensive line,? Thierolf said. ?Strong, quick, got good feet, smart and handles things well as a center.?
The offensive line will have a new quarterback to protect in 2010. Out for his senior season because of a shoulder injury, Matt Sprowls will be replaced by senior Dillon Richmond.
?I don?t expect us to skip a beat from where we were last year,? Thierolf said. ?There are some things that Dillon does very, very well. We?ll just have to play to those things.?
In the backfield, Les Riggs will line up at fullback and senior Randy Regnier and Colten Johnson will share time at running back. Riggs ran for around 2,500 yards combined in the previous years in junior varsity. Johnson started on both sides of the ball as a freshman.
?(Riggs) gives us some quickness and speed at that fullback position that we haven?t had for a while,? Thierolf said. ?He gets to the hole fast and that?s a good thing in the option game.
?Randy?s one of those kids that if he played at the 4A, 5A, 6A, he would never see the field,? he added. ?They look at size first and then other things, but he?s going to be a good football player for us.
?Colten Johnson?s going to play a lot of football for us,? Thierolf said. ?He?s a good football player, good athlete.?
Playing at wide receiver will be senior Jordan Versch. As a junior, he filled in for an injured Mitch Cady in the latter part of the season.
On defense, the Warriors will be led by seniors. Conner Thierolf will spearhead the linebacking core in the 46 defense.
?He doesn?t say a whole lot but he plays hard and plays fast,? said his coach and father. ?He really likes football and studies it.?
Johnson and junior Cory Hiebert will play at the other linebacker positions.
The defensive line will be bolstered by Cope and Costello in the interior and Riggs and junior Dakin Ledford at defensive end.
In the secondary, the Warriors have experience with Versch, Richmond and Regnier. Junior Cole Lewman will also see some time there.
With the senior-laden squad, Thierolf has set some high expectations.
?If you don?t have a goal of winning the state championship, you?re selling your kids short,? Thierolf said.
Marion opens its season Sept. 3 at Lyons.