The Marion High School Warriors were doing so much hooting, yelling, jumping, and clapping at midfield prior to the kickoff Friday against Bennington that late-arriving fans at Warriors Stadium might have thought the Warriors had already won. They might have been right.
A fired-up Marion defense forced a fumble on the opening series recovered by lineman Nick Meyer, and Warrior quarterback Taylor Heidebrecht bolted 48 yards for a touchdown the first time he touched the ball, sparking the Warriors to a 20-0 victory over the Bulldogs.
“Nobody likes losing, and it’s a case where the kids got tired of it,” Marion head coach Grant Thierolf said. “The kids made plays.”
“After playing two bad games where the effort wasn’t that good, we worked on effort all week and it showed,” Heidebrecht said.
“We were better prepared this week. The coaches did a great job of getting us ready, and we executed,” receiver Jacob Harper said. “We all came together and played as a team. That’s what we did at practice, and it showed off tonight.”
Holding Bennington scoreless was a dramatic turnaround for a defensive unit that gave up 95 points in its first two games.
“Our defensive shut the running game down. The defensive front four kept their people off our linebackers — I was pleased with that,” Thierolf said. “We gave up a few yards in the passing game, but we never gave up the big play.”
The Bulldogs employed a roll-out-style passing attack that required some adjustments, Thierolf said.
“We moved some kids around, we put Lance Knolla in at defensive tackle at 145 pounds, just because of speed, and he made some nice plays for us,” Thierold said. “We got a couple of sacks out of our defensive ends, Morgan (Wheeler) and John (Nordquist). When those guys pin their ears back and go, it’s fun to watch.”
Two critical fourth-down plays contributed to Marion’s second touchdown of the first quarter. A fourth-down pass at the Bulldog 33 from Heidebrecht to Grif Case fell incomplete, but Bennington drew a defensive holding penalty, giving the Warriors a fresh set of downs at the 24.
Facing fourth-and-3 at the Bennington 16, Brody Carroll swept around right end, broke a sideline tackle at the 5, and sailed over the goal line for the touchdown. Case connected on his second conversion attempt of the night for a 14-0 lead.
Marion’s final score came late in the fourth quarter. The defense held on a fourth-down play, giving the ball to the offense at the Marion 41. Heidebrecht duplicated his first-quarter magic, this time sprinting 59 yards for the score.
“Grif made a couple of great downfield blocks on those, and that’s what gets you those big long runs. Wiley Lundy, too — it’s nice to see those guys down there,” Thierolf said.
Heidebrecht racked up 107 yards on his two scoring jaunts, leading the Warriors in rushing with 171 yards on 16 carries. Carroll had a solid performance, picking up 108 yards on 23 carries.
Heidebrecht went to the air 12 times, but a 12-yard reception by Harper was the only completion for the Warriors.
Getting the first win of the season was encouraging, but Thierolf kept the Warriors’ performance in perspective.
“We made enough mistakes tonight to still have plenty of stuff to work on,” Thierolf said. “We’re just happy to get a win. Everybody feels a whole lot better about themselves, and it’s just a whole lot more fun.”
The Warriors’ next game is on the road Friday at Inman.