MARION — There were no real surprises in Friday night's non-conference football game between the Marion Wildcats and the third-ranked Highland Bulldogs. The Bulldogs showed why they are a ranked team, piling up 432 yards in total offense and forcing five turnovers as they beat the Wildcats 45-27 in Marion's home opener.

"We heard all along they are going to do what they do," said Marion coach Kerry Martin. "They did what they did. They were exactly what we expected them to be."

Quarterback Garrett Martin passed for 235 yards, 175 of them to receiver Sam LaPorta, and Brady Feldman ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

But it was the turnovers that were the most costly to the Wildcats. Three interceptions and two lost fumbles hurt an offense that otherwise racked up 418 yards of its own.

"It doesn't matter [who you're playing]," Martin said. "It isn't always the turnovers, it's kind of when and where it happens."

Marion's first three possessions ended in an interception, a punt and a fumble as the Wildcats fell behind 14-0. But the Wildcats quick-strike offense hit for a 50-yard touchdown pass from David Fletcher to Jaden Lacy to cut the lead to one score.

After forcing a turnovers on downs, the Fletcher to Lacy combination struck again, as Fletcher scrambled out of trouble and hit Lacy for a 15-yard scoring play to tie the game.

Highland led 21-14, but again it was Fletcher to Lacy with 16.6 seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 21 heading into intermission. But Martin said it was the defense that helped Marion stay alive by overcoming three first-half giveways.

"Hat's off to the defense for continually keeping us it the game until late," Martin said.

Marion sputtered in the third quarter, and Highland took advantage scoring twice to lead 35-21 after three periods. Down 38-21 in the fourth, Fletcher tossed a 28-yard scoring strike to Noah Mofield to pull within 11, but could get no closer.

"It just seemed like we ran out of plays in the second half," Martin said. "The third quarter just wasn't a good quarter for us."

Fletcher finished the night 15-for-28 for 229 yards and four touchdowns. Lacy had six catches for 166 yards and three of those scores. Caden Hilliard ran the ball 23 times for 142 yards

Marion goes back on the road for two more weeks, traveling to Cahokia next Friday to open the South Seven Conference season against the Comanches.

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