OLYMPIA FIELDS — Saturday's IHSA Class 5A playoff opener in Olympia Fields was a game meant for the host Rich Central.
The Olympians scored in the first half on an 85-yard tipped pass completion, on a 12-yard run after a blocked punt and a 100-yard interception return on the way to a 54-12 win over the Marion Wildcats.
Marion's season ended at 6-4. Rich Central improved to 8-2 and will advance to play at top-seeded Dunlap in the second round next weekend.
"Early in the game, every ball bounced right for them," said Marion head coach Kerry Martin. "Whether it was a tipped ball for a touchdown or a blocked kick. It was the little things that are momentum changers early and we had to struggle uphill to come back."
The game started promising as the Wildcats forced a three-and-out on Rich Central's first possession, and Marion started moving the ball, getting two quick first downs. But the Wildcats stalled on fourth-and-1 at the Rich Central 41, and the Olympians needed just three plays to score on a 9-yard run by Northern Illinois recruit, quarterback Jyran Mitchell.
After another Marion punt, the Olympians started on their own 20 and lost five yards on the first play. But on third-and-15, Mitchell threw a pass over the middle that Armani Griffin tipped up in the air and caught, racing to the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
On the next Marion possession, the Olympians blocked a David Fletcher punt and took over at the 12. On the first play, Mitchell scored the second of his four rushing touchdowns and it was 21-0 Rich Central still in the first quarter.
"They really fed off that momentum," Martin said. "I think once they got it they would not let us have it back."
Marion tried to get the momentum back after falling behind 28-0. The Wildcats were driving the ball into Rich Central territory at the Olympians 30 yards line. But on fourth-and-7, Fletchers pass intended for Jaden Lacy was intercepted by Derrick Maxwell Jr. at the goal line, and Maxwell returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown.
"Probably the backbreaker for us was that play," Martin said. "That was the one that probably put the final nail in the coffin. We were trying to get back in the game and I felt like we were moving the ball and the next thing I know, that happened and the bottom kind of fell out."
The Wildcats got the next two touchdowns, scoring twice in less than 30 seconds of game time. Caden Hilliard cracked the goal line on a 3-yard run with 11.7 seconds left in the first half, and Jaden Lacy ran the third quarter kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown to make the score 35-12.
But Rich Central got two Mitchell touchdown runs and another by Sean Tyler to put the game away.
Mitchell finished with 172 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and threw for 181 more yards and a score. Tyler had 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Hilliard led Marion's offense with 78 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving. Lacy caught three passes for 50 yards.