The Marion County Tribune

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Warriors Fumble Second-Round Against Indians

Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2023 at 12:26 pm

 SHANE SHOEMAKER – Writer

The Marion County Warriors’ only loss of the season came at the most critical juncture, in a win-or-go-home second-round TSSAA 2A playoff matchup, losing 24-7 to East Robertson last Friday night.

The 24 points were the most that a usually stingy Warriors defense had allowed all season, giving up no more than 15 in all previous games. It was East Robertson’s defense that held Marion in check, holding them to just one touchdown, 130 yards of total offense, and three first downs.

Marion’s usually good rushing attack that averaged over 200 yards a game was held to just 63 yards and no scores. The Warriors never held a lead all night, something that they weren’t used to being undefeated through the first round of the playoffs. Going into the second half, the Warriors and Indians were tied 7-7.

East Robertson scored first with just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter after Isaiah Groves, a Mr. Football semifinalist, scored on an 80-yard run. He would prove to be the guy to beat all night, which the Warriors could never successfully do. Groves ran 27 times for 265 of the Indians’ 298 rushing yards and all three of their touchdowns, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. But the Warriors, who struggled to move the ball consistently most of the evening, were able to stay in the game mostly thanks to East Robertson’s staggering 13 first-half penalties for 123 yards.

Marion would make their only score of the night right before the half would end, in part thanks to one of those penalties on an out-of-bounds late hit on EJ Wilson resulting in a personal foul that put the Warriors at the Indians’ 7-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Tilton Pickett found Luke Tipton in the back corner of the end zone.

The Indians cleaned up their penalties in the second half, more than cutting them in half, accounting for six for 60 yards. But the momentum shift occurred after Marion’s Ashton Martin fumbled in the third quarter opening kickoff. “We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Marion head coach Tim Starkey said. “On the kick return, we went from having the ball in the middle of the field to fumbling it, turning it over. And they scored off that drive, then after that, they got the momentum and we just couldn’t seem to kick it back in gear.”

Marion’s six second-half drives resulted in three punts, two turnovers on downs, and an interception, resulting in a total of 12 yards of offense, while three of East Robertson’s seven drives resulted in scores of 17 points for 172 yards. This year’s Warriors team not only exceeded expectations after going 5-5 and missing the playoffs entirely last season but have now set a new standard, Starkey said.

“They got a lot to be proud of. We’ve changed this thing around from last year, drastically. And this is the result of it. We fell short tonight, and I told the guys that for the rest of their lives they’re going to be able to show up here and see ‘2023’ on the board, on the field house, in the stadium – and they made history. I also told them moving forward, the underclassmen, the standard has been set.”

~photos courtesy of Gene Fuller