MARION — The Marion Wildcats weren’t the same team as the one that suffered a lopsided loss to Highland a week earlier, according to head coach Kerry Martin, after they pulled away from Cahokia for a 36-14 victory in their South Seven Conference meeting Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
“I told the kids I don’t remember a game where we played so poorly and then played so well back to back,” Martin said. “We’ve played poorly and then gotten better over time, but I feel like from where we played last Friday to where we played tonight, it was like a totally different football team.”
Marion (3-1, 1-0) took the opening kickoff and went on a long march that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown run by Jordyn Beverly with a two-point conversion from Tommy Wiseman for an 8-0 lead with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
That score was set up in part by a pass from Evan Noelle to Brody Larson, who is usually the running quarterback in Marion’s tight offensive package.
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But the Comanches, who were without starting quarterback Omarion Gooden, went on their own impressive drive and new signal caller Zion Taylor, a sophomore, scored from a yard out and threw a conversion pass to Peter Baxtron to tie the score with 1:21 still left in the opening frame.
Neither team scored again until Patrick Walker took in a 13-yard touchdown run with 40.4 seconds left in the second quarter, which made the score 14-8 at halftime.
Before those points, the Wildcats got an interception from Jah’mel Portee and two big tackles from Talon Hance to force a punt.
“They’re so big and physical that we were hoping we could run enough plays in the first half to maybe wear them down and make things a little easier,” Martin said. “To do that, you’ve got to have the football and sustain drives and our guys did that tonight.”
Marion attempted just five passes in the game, all in the first half. Larson led the tight offense on a scoring drive in the third quarter and capped it with a 19-yard TD run, part of his eight carries for 47 yards to put the Wildcats ahead 20-8.
Walker led the Wildcats with 11 rushing attempts for 74 yards, with 30 of those coming on one play. Noelle also had six carries for 55 yards and completed just the one pass to Larson for 23 yards.
“Honestly we just took what they were giving us,” Martin said. “We felt like the run was there and it was working and it was using the clock up. That’s what we went with and that was kind of the game plan coming in. They made my play calling really easy because they were physical and getting off the ball.”
Cahokia (1-3, 0-1) scored its second touchdown when Taylor threw a long pass in the direction of Nicholas DeLoach Jr. that was tipped but DeLoach still managed to make the catch and find the end zone for a 32-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Noelle broke free down the left sideline for an 18-yard score and Larson took in the two-point conversion despite a high snap to push the lead to 28-14 with 7:29 remaining, then Marion’s defense provided the final points.
That came when Cahokia was forced into a fourth-and-8 situation and Michael Gunn put a hit on Taylor that resulted in a fumble. Walker alertly scooped it up and scored from 29 yards and Beverly ran in the conversion for a 36-14 lead with five minutes to play.
“Patrick continues to be certainly one of our most consistent players all season long,” Martin said. “In four games, Patrick has had a good game in all four games. He’s just a junior and that kind of consistency I’m hoping carries over because a lot of other guys had a good ballgame tonight.
“We finally put four quarters together and didn’t make all the mistakes and turnovers that have plagued us, especially last week.”
Marion is at home again this coming Friday against Mount Vernon in what will be the annual Pink Out game.