After their tough season opening loss to Eastbrook, James Bell and the Marion Giants anticipated the juggernaut they would face at Dick Lootens Stadium – the No. 4 ranked Lawrence North Wildcat.
Armed with Indiana-commit Donaven McCulley, a lethal group of running backs and receivers, and both size and speed along the offensive and defensive lines, the Wildcats dominated all phases of the contest from start to finish in a 70-14 rout.
“It’s not just the quarterback, he has a great surrounding cast,” Bell said. “He has good receivers, he has a great offensive line, and they are better than they were last year.”
Lawrence North compiled nearly 600 yards of offense and scored on all but one of their offensive possessions. McCulley completed 18 of his 21 passes for 339 yards, and a pair of touchdowns passes, while running backs Trevon Hegler and Ali Richardson combined for 144 rushing yards and five touchdowns on just 13 carries.
Jordan Jackson and Omar Cooper combined for 226 yards receiving and a touchdown on six receptions.
“You watch the passing game and you watch the blocking, they are just a better football team,” Bell said.
The game was highly competitive in the opening quarter. Marion’s defense forced a Lawrence North three-and-out on their opening drive, and shortly after, their offense drove down to the red zone. However, the Giants ultimately failed to score, coming up short on fourth down and giving the ball back to the Wildcats.
After that, the Wildcats went on to find the end zone on 10 straight drives.
On their ensuing possession, Lawrence North needed just four plays to score, capping it off with a 77-yard touchdown pass from McCulley to Jackson. Later, the Wildcats increased their lead to 14-0 on a 21-yard run from Hegler.
Zaimar Burnett, who played an outstanding game on both sides of the football, broke off a 73-yard touchdown run on Marion’s next possession to cut Lawrence North’s lead to seven. Burnett finished the contest with 156 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.
However, that was as close as the Giants would get the rest of the way.
Hegler went on to score two more touchdowns, as did Richardson, while McCulley added another passing touchdown along with a rushing score on a designed quarterback draw. Backup quarterback Dalys Jett scored in garbage time, while Romaro Warren scored Lawrence North’s lone defensive touchdown on a 30-yard fumble return.
While the final score was lopsided, there were several positives. Burnett’s performance aside, Marion’s younger players received valuable reps against a top-five football team, and most importantly, they continued to battle until the final whistle.
“We had good practices this week,” Bell said. “The kids are resilient, and they have positive attitudes. They are working hard, and they are giving the effort that we need. We just have to keep doing that.”
Marion hits the road the next two weeks to begin their conference schedule, which starts next Friday night against arch-rival Kokomo.
“We are going to focus on the run because that is what they are going to do,” Bell said. “They run the wing-T, so we are going to focus on the run. We are going to stay positive. We are going to keep working hard. We’ve got a tough schedule this year, and we’ve got to find a way to play through it. Now, it’s the real season.”