With the return of Craig Chambers, who left for Indianapolis Arsenal Tech after leading the revival of the Marion Giants’ football program, emotions naturally ran a little higher than usual.
However, despite some physical and mental lapses at times, the Giants battled from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, improving to 5-3 on the season. Khalid Stamps rushed for 185 yards and pair of touchdowns and the defense forced three turnovers and pitched a second-half shutout in a 28-13 triumph.
“Mental errors and penalties, that’s what the biggest problems were, and focus, but like I told them at the end, I’m proud of them,” Marion Head Coach James Bell said. “They battled through adversity and they made the plays when they had to make the plays. They came out in the second half and kept them out of the end zone. That’s what it’s all about.”
Arsenal Tech opened the scoring midway the first quarter as Titans’ quarterback Defayebeon Pittman hit James Williams in strides for a 59-yard touchdown.
However, the Giants responded on their ensuing possession. On his first touch of the contest, Zaimar Burnett raced 37 yards to the endzone, untouched, tying the contest at 7-7.
From that moment on, the Giants never trailed.
While Marion’s offense struggled to find much more success in the first half, their defense kept them in control. For the game, the Giants allowed just 138 yards through the air and 108 yards on the ground.
Along with keeping the Arsenal Tech offense grounded, Marion’s defense also contributed on the scoreboard. Early in the second quarter, the Titans fumbled a lateral, and Ty Coleman was right there to pick it up, rumbling 35 yards to the house. Josh Balfour converted the following two-point conversion, giving the Giants a 15-7 lead.
The Titans were able to the find the end zone again late in the first half, but the Giants’ defense held on Arsenal Tech’s two-point conversion try, keeping them from tying the game up heading into halftime.
In the final two quarters, Stamps singlehandedly helped the Giants put the Titans away. After compiling just 58 yards on 10 carries in the first half, Marion’s senior running back exploded for 127 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries after halftime.
After both teams punted on their opening possessions, Stamps rushed four times for 38 yards on the Giants’ next drive, including a 19-yard touchdown run to increase Marion’s lead to 22-13.
The Giants’ defense made their biggest stand of the night as the third quarter winded down. Starting at their own 39-yard line, the Titans drove all the way down to the Marion 29-yard line, putting them in prime position to cut into Marion’s advantage. However, Balfour ended the Arsenal Tech threat, intercepting a Pittman pass in the endzone.
One play later, Stamps ripped off his biggest run of the contest, bursting through the middle of the Titans’ defense and scampering 80 yards to the end zone to cap off Marion’s home schedule with a victory.
Along with the turnovers forced by Balfour and Coleman, Ja’Vion Davis collected a fumble on a kickoff return, while Johnny Davis collected 2.5 sacks.
“We always say if we can win two out of the three phases of the game, we have a chance to win,” Bell said. “We had that, and we moved the ball well enough on offense and scored when we had to score and made some big plays when we needed to make big plays.”
Marion will wrap up their regular season slate against McCutcheon on the road this coming Friday evening.