Friday night’s football game between the Marion Giants and the Indianapolis Arsenal Tech Titans could not have gotten off to a more inauspicious start.
In their first four plays, the Giants fumbled the ball twice – once on a run and once on a kick return – leading to two Titans’ touchdowns on their first two drives.
But the Marion offense steadied themselves, scoring 30 unanswered points, while the defense forced five second-half turnovers in an eventual 30-18 triumph.
With the victory, the Giants improved to 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the NCC.
The weather certainly played a factor in the contest, particularly in its early stages. At kickoff, the wind was howling, the temperature had dropped significantly, and the rainfall was torrential.
The less than pristine condition affected the Giants early. On their third play from scrimmage, a bad snap got away from KeshaunTaylor, and the ball was recovered by the Titans.
Armed with the early momentum, the Titans drove 68 yards on nine plays and took a 6-0 lead after a two-yard plunge from quarterback Cailer Bridges.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Titans forced a special teams turnover, causing a fumble and recovering the ball at their own 30-yard line.
Behind more superb running by Bridges, together with running backs Jason Johnson and Xavier Morphis, the Titans marched down the field once again, going 70 yards on 10 plays. Morphis took it in from a yard out on third-and-goal, increasing the Titans’ lead to 12-0.
“They’re phenomenal athletes,” Marion Head Coach Craig Chambers said of the Titans. “They had a great scheme. Their coaches did a great job preparing them. They came out on fire.”
For the first time since their Week 2 loss to Lawrence North, the Giants had their back against the wall.
But as the saying goes – “Giants Fight, Never Die.” And Marion came back swinging.
After Tech went up by two scores, Marion just needed three plays to cut their advantage to five points. On 3rd-and-6 from their own 34-yard line, JK Thomas took an end-around jet sweep 66 yards, untouched, to the end zone, giving the Giants a little bit of life.
That touchdown changed the course of the contest.
“They definitely banded together,” Chambers said. “They came out slow [and] got down two scores. But we ended up getting a good score at the end of the [first quarter,] and then, we just put it together in the second half.”
Tech got the ball to start the ball to start the second half, but they did not have it for long. On his second carry of the drive, Johnson fumbled the football and it was recovered by Zaimar Burnett, giving the Giants great field position near midfield.
Five plays later, Taylor gave the Giants the lead for good, scoring from 33 yards out.
Though Taylor did not finish with any passing yards, he was excellent in the running game, compiling 113 carries on 13 carries.
“He did a good job,” Chambers said of Taylor. “He is getting better with the reads – he just has to continue to get better.”
Tech’s nightmarish second half continued, as the offense turned the ball over on four more consecutive drives. Thomas and Ty Coleman came away with interceptions, while the Giants’ defense also forced and recovered another fumble.
In all, the Giants forced five turnovers on Tech’s first five drives of the second half. Not even the historic 2018 Marion defense accomplished that feat.
“It wasn’t too tough,” Chambers said. “They knew what they needed to do. Tech did pretty much what we expected them to do – we just had to step our game up. We challenged a few kids on the defensive end of the ball, and they prevailed for us.”
After Kyle Coryea kicked a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter, Khalid Stamps, who did not play against Muncie Central last week after violating a team rule, closed the game out for the Giants, recording touchdowns runs of 10 and 59 yards in the final quarter of play.
Tech did score in the fourth quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Bridges to Jamarri Bibbs, but the Titans would get any closer.
Stamps led the Giants with 138 yard on 16 carries, while Thomas finished the contest with 52 yards. In total, Marion finished with 307 yards of offense – all of which came on the ground.
For Tech, Johnson finished with 109 yards on 26 carries, while Bridges collected 53 yards rushing and Morphis 29.
Marion will wrap up their regular season at home against Harrison this coming Friday.