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Stingy defense leads Warriors to victory against Hutch Trinity

Contributing writer

One of the first things Marion High School Warriors (5-1) did after defeating the Trinity Catholic Celtics (4-2) on Friday was get head football coach Grant Thierolf on speakerphone to celebrate with them.

While Thierolf attended to a family emergency, Shaun Craft and the rest of the assistants kept the Warriors on task.

The Celtics scored a touchdown on their opening drive, converting two fourth-down attempts on the way to the end zone. It was the last time they would lead the game.

On the ensuing drive, Marion running back Corbin Wheeler carried the team into scoring position with a pair of long runs. Then quarterback Chase Stringer took over with a pair of quarterback keepers, scoring a touchdown standing up on the second. Jack Schneider added the two-point conversion with a diving run wide right, and Marion led 8-6.

The Warriors turned away a pair of scoring threats by the Celtics before halftime. On fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, the Warriors forced an incomplete pass and turnover on downs. At the end of the half, Schneider knocked down a Celtics’ hail Mary pass at the goal line.

Craft said the defense played all of its assignments right that play, and Schneider made the right decision to knock it down rather than try to intercept it.

“Any time you break up a pass at the goal line, it’s huge,” he said.

The Warriors went into halftime still holding an 8-6 lead.

The teams traded unsuccessful possessions to start the second half, then Marion marched down the field.

With the ball at Trinity’s 19-yard line, the Warriors sent multiple receivers in motion, creating confusion that helped Zachary Stuchlik get open for a touchdown reception. After the two-point conversion came up short, Marion led 14-6.

In the second and third quarters, Celtics quarterback Kaleb Hammeke repeatedly gashed Marion’s defense with wild scrambles when his receivers were well covered. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors solved Hammeke’s scrambles. He still ran around a lot, but Marion kept him contained and limited the yards he gained.

“They just rose up,” Craft said. “They were tired of chasing the quarterback around, and they were relentless in the fourth quarter.”

He said the stoutness of Marion’s interior defense, with Jarret McLinden getting tackles even when double- and triple-teamed and Tyler Palic patrolling the middle, made things easier for the rest of the defense. Everyone could stay in position and do their job because of the strong interior, Craft said.

Friday’s game was moved up an hour because of severe weather in the forecast. Some lightning was visible to the north, but the game was completed without incident.

Marion begins district play Friday on the road at Southeast of Saline. The Trojans, 3-3, are coming off a 35-14 road loss to Beloit.

Last modified Oct. 12, 2017

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