Marion Coach Tony Perkins knows exactly what buttons to push with his young football team.
So, when the Indians went to the locker room in a tight ballgame with Western Dubuque, Perkins punched the offense’s green button for go and the defense’s red button for stop. The Indians responded accordingly.
Marion shut out the Bobcats offense in the second half and scored two touchdowns on its first plays after the intermission, powering to a 40-14 victory in a Class 3A District 5 prep football game Friday night at Thomas Park.
The halftime speech was more teaching than chewing.
“We seriously haven’t had to get on this team at all,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t do any good to go in there and yell at them if they don’t understand what they’re doing wrong.
“We go in there and go over what we’re doing right and wrong and come out and we need to come out and execute in the second half. They’ve really responded to that.”
They couldn’t have responded better. Western Dubuque closed within 21-14 in the final minute of the first half and received the ball to start the third quarter. The Indians’ Tyler Fisher picked off a Matt Kass and returned it to the 27 yard line.
Colton Storla drove the dagger in a little further, rumbling 27 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and putting Marion up 27-14 after the PAT was blocked. Once Storla was through the first line of defense he was gone.
“We had some good blocks outside,” Storla said. “I just turned it on as fast as I can.”
It was key to gain control right away after halftime.
“It was huge,” Perkins said. “We don’t pick it up and stop them on that drive it’s a ballgame. Once we got them stopped and turned around and on one play went for a touchdown. I think we took the steam out of them a little bit.”
The defense shut down the Bobcats offense again, getting a big sack for an 11-yard loss from defensive tackle Austin Hardman that forced a third-and-long and a punt. Then the quick-strike Indian offense hit again.
Trev Biery took a handoff for the first time in the game and bolted through the left side of the line for a 57-yard touchdown run. The Indians went up, 33-14. Big plays have been a part of the Indians offense and are a sign of the talent in the backfield.
“It sure seems like it because we’ve done it this year,” Perkins said. “That’s really the quality of backs we have back there. We always knew they were going to be very good.”
The Marion defense remained on lockdown, picking off Kass two more times and keeping them out of Marion territory the remainder of the game.
“We struggled in the first half,” Hardman said, “but we brought more intensity the second half.
“We showed we can be a really good team once we bring the desire and intensity.”
Zach Neilsen’s interception in the fourth quarter set up Biery’s 3-yard TD run for the final score of the game.
The Indians grabbed control of the game early, scoring on its opening possession of the game. Marion marched 80 yards capped by Storla’s 3-yard run for a 7-0 lead. Storla finished with 140 yards rushing on 21 carries and three touchdowns, adding a two-yard plunge in the second.
Dusty Albaugh put the Indians up 21-7 with a 27-yard run with 2:02 to go in the first half.
Western Dubuque (1-2) came out running, a change from it’s strong passing attack. The Bobcats drove 78 yards, capped by a nice touchdown catch by Nick Lenstrra from Kass on 4th-and-goal from the 18 to make it 7-7 after the first quarter.
The Bobcats manufactured a great drive right before half, going 78 yards on seven plays. Kass, who went 6 of 7 for 78 yards on the drive, hit Logan Pitz for a 24-yard touchdown with 45 seconds to go before half.