Throughout the season, the Giants’ running game, together with their play on defense, have proved the biggest keys to their success.
On Friday night in the Sectional 20 semifinal at Dick Lootens Stadium, both played a significant role in one of the Giants’ most complete game victories of the season.
Khalid Stamps and Winston Baity each rushed for over 100 yards, the defense collected six sacks, and the Giants advanced to the Sectional 20 championship with a 33-14 triumph over the Fort Wayne South Side Archers.
Despite some injuries on the offensive line, the Giants did not miss a beat, rushing for an incredible 326 yards.
“They battled adversity. We got news that one kid wasn’t going to be able to play, and other guys stepped up,” Marion Head Coach James Bell said. “Johnny Davis played both ways. [AJ] Mitchener played both ways. Trevor Riah stepped in there and played on the d-line also, and so did Greg Johnson. They stepped up.”
Stamps has taken his game to another level over the last few games. After rushing for over 250 yards against Mississinewa last week, the senior rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns against South Side, including a 45-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
“He ran like this last year. The difference is that he had more of a supporting cast [last year,]” Bell said. “This year, particularly of late, he’s got a better understanding. He’s playing hard. You have to motivate kids sometimes, and they have to understand that every play has to be like the last play. I think he has an understanding of that now.”
The Giants’ defense has had a penchant for making big plays, and they did so again on Friday night. They got consistent pressure on South Side quarterbacks Quincy English and Roosevelt Norfleet throughout the evening, and middle linebacker JeKwan Williams led the charge, collecting three sacks, including one for a safety, and a fumble recovery late in the game.
“We just keep swinging,” Bell said. “We brought a little pressure, and we got some good plays. That’s how we got the safety and several sacks.”
Stamps 45-yard run to start Marion’s first drive set the tone, as the Giants quickly and efficiently moved down the field. After nine straight runs to begin the possession, Marion quarterback Cubie Jones hit Josh Balfour on a slant route for an 11-yard score, giving the Giants an advantage they would not relinquish.
Late in the first quarter, the Archers put together a touchdown drive of their own, using a 56-yard scamper by English and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Norfleet to Trevor Hapner to cut Marion’s lead to 7-6. But the Giants responded accordingly, driving 72 yards on six plays and taking advantage of several South Side penalties.
On a 4th-and-5 from the 12-yard line, Stamps followed his blocking, scoring his first touchdown of the evening to give the Giants a 14-6 lead.
Stamps scored his second touchdown of the first half late in the second quarter, capping off a 10-play, 71-yard drive with a four-yard run to put Marion up 21-6 heading into halftime.
Baity, who was forced into the lineup after Malachi Silmon went down with an injury early in the first quarter, made the most of his opportunity. On Marion’s third scoring drive, the junior rushed four times for 24 yards, helping the Giants’ offense continue to click on all cylinders, and finished with 109 yards total – 81 of which came in the second half.
“At running back, Malachi got hurt, and that took us out of some of the things that we normally do,” Bell said. “But Winston came in and did a good job and ran hard. The guys that had to step up stepped up tonight.”
South Side made it interesting early in the second half. The Giants forced the Archers to punt, but a special teams gaffe led to a fumble and a South Side recovery, which gave them excellent field position at the Marion 23-yard line. The Archers took advantage, scoring their second touchdown of the contest on a six-yard run from Matthew Morris, and the ensuing two-point conversion made it a one-score game at 21-14.
However, with momentum seemingly swinging in the other direction, the Marion offense helped the Giants regain control of the contest. Marion ran nearly eight minutes off the clock, using a combination of Stamps and Baity to drive down the field with ease, and a Kyle Coryea 25-yard field goal put the Giants back up by two scores at 24-14.
From there, the Giants’ defense did the rest. Halfway through the fourth quarter, back-to-back sacks by the Marion defense led to a safety, putting the Giants up 26-14, and a nine-yard touchdown by Baity on their ensuing drive put the game on ice.
“We continued to do what we do,” Bell said. “We [controlled] the ball, we got first down, and we scored when we needed to score and took advantage of what they gave us. I’m very proud of them.”
Marion will host Delta this coming Friday for the Sectional 20 championship. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.