Warriors trampled by Ell-Saline in football opener

Staff writer

“It was an absolute train wreck.”

Stating the obvious about the 50-27 smack down Ell-Saline put on the Marion High School Warriors football team Friday in Brookville, head coach Grant Thierolf could have stopped with that. He didn’t.

“We were the worst-coached team in the state of Kansas this week — by far,” Thierolf said.

The Warriors won the opening coin toss and little else. Cardinals running back Toby Omli ripped off 40 yards on Ell-Saline’s first two plays, and Kaleb Whitehair breezed around left end from the Marion 10 to score. Two minutes and 30 seconds into the new season, the Warriors were staring at a 6-0 deficit.

Some running backs go all season without a 100-yard rushing game — it took Omli barely 4 minutes to eclipse that mark. He sliced through left tackle for a 64-yard scoring jaunt on the Cardinals’ next series, and the Cardinals were up 12-0 with 7:45 left in the first quarter.

Marion faced a fourth-and-6 from the Marion 45 when the snap to punter Kyle Palic sailed over his head, and Ell-Saline took over at the Marion 21.

Walker missed a wide-open Whitehair in the end zone, setting up fourth-and 13 at the Marion 24. The Marion secondary got burned again, and this time Walker made them pay by floating a scoring pass to Keegan Hays. Ell-Saline made the two-point conversion for a 20-0 lead.

The second quarter started badly for the Warriors when Palic couldn’t handle another high punt snap, giving the Cardinals the ball on the Marion 3. Omli scored on the next play, and Ell-Saline had 28 points, all they needed to win.

“There was nothing they did that surprised us. It was just lack of effort, lack of execution, and lack of coaching,” Thierolf said.

The Cardinals added another touchdown and two-point conversion before Marion finally crossed the goal line in the fourth quarter. Taylor Heidebrecht, James Jones, and Palic found enough running room to take the Warriors down to the Cardinals 5, where Palic finished off the drive with a touchdown. Grif Case kicked the extra point.

The next time Marion had the ball, Heidebrecht electrified the Warrior fans by cutting across the grain of the defense for a 73-yard scoring dash. Case tacked on the PAT.

After Ell-Saline pushed the score to 50-14, Marion picked up two late touchdowns from its reserves. Adam Janzen scored on a 20-yard pitch play from backup quarterback Zac Robson, and Robson plunged over the goal line from 4 yards out as time expired.

“Our kids didn’t play like we could’ve played, and we didn’t coach as well through the three weeks as we needed to,” Thierolf said. “It comes down to coaching, and they outcoached us and outplayed us. That won’t happen anymore.”

The Warriors will try to even their record Friday with a home game against Sedgwick at Warriors Stadium.

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