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Wildcats rally to stun Rochelle in final seconds

  • Dylan Kinell catches the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds Saturday.

    Dylan Kinell catches the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds Saturday.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Boston Ziegler throws the game-winning touchdown pass.

    Boston Ziegler throws the game-winning touchdown pass.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Dylan Kinell leaps for the winning catch.

    Dylan Kinell leaps for the winning catch.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Dylan Kinell celebrates the winning score.

    Dylan Kinell celebrates the winning score.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • James Bytner gets to Kinell first to celebrate.

    James Bytner gets to Kinell first to celebrate.
    Justin Walker Photo

  • Justin Walker Photo

updated: 8/27/2018 12:13 PM

MARION -- Oh, baby. Kerry Martin had a pretty good weekend.

The longtime Marion High School football coach watched his team march 70 yards with no timeouts in the final minute of the game and win a thriller over Rochelle, 43-40, in the season opener at Wildcat Stadium.

But then a few hours later, Martin became a grandfather for the first time when his daughter Andrea Borum gave birth to son Wyatt Lee at 12:44 a.m. Sunday morning.

And don't think the events were unrelated. Borum began having contractions during the game, which had more than its share of excitement. She was able to greet her father on the field during the postgame celebration before heading to the hospital.

That was after Boston Ziegler connected with Dylan Kinell for an 11-yard touchdown with 3.5 seconds left to beat the Hubs, who reached the Class 4A quarterfinals last season.

"They're a good football team," Martin said. "We said all along the contrasting styles would make for a good matchup and it did. We had trouble stopping what they do and they had trouble stopping what we do. The result is a game like that."

The day didn't start so great for Martin and the Wildcats, however.

Rochelle took the opening kick and Noah Knight exploded for a 99-yard touchdown return. Then after the Wildcats went three-and-out, quarterback Andrew Johnson led the Hubs on an 80-yard drive capped by a 12-yard run from Knight with 2:32 left in the first quarter.

But spoiler alert: the game would be tied at halftime.

"Our kids never quit," Martin said. "We played a really, really good program and the first quarter was absolutely textbook the way they had to have wanted it. Get a lead, make us punt, then score again on a long drive."

Marion got on the board when Ziegler and Kinell connected for the first time, also from 11 yards, at the 10:56 mark of the second quarter.

Rochelle's Brandon Johnson scampered for a 75-yard touchdown, only to see the Wildcats tie the game before the half with scoring runs from Drake Gravatt (6 yards) and Ziegler (2 yards).

Marion took the lead after scoring on the opening drive of the second half as Ziegler took the offense on a 13-play march. A newcomer to the Marion backfield, junior Josh Schmid, powered in from 2 yards to put the Wildcats ahead 28-21 with 7:11 left in the third quarter.

But a shootout was just getting started. Rochelle scored twice with runs from Johnson and Eddie Villalobos and was back on top, but Marion answered with a 13-yard touchdown from Noah Mofield that gave the Wildcats a 36-33 lead.

Rochelle plowed back to paydirt and Brandon Johnson's third touchdown with 1:05 left gave the Hubs a four-point lead.

The ensuing kickoff went to Lucas Will and he made his way to the 30. With a minute left on the clock, Ziegler peppered the sidelines and found receivers Kinell and James Bytnar -- and also benefited from an interference penalty -- and suddenly the Wildcats were in striking range.

With the ball at the 11-yard line and less than 10 seconds left, Ziegler took the snap and stood behind his big line, then lobbed a pass over the line to the middle of the end zone. Kinell came from the left side and made a leaping catch ahead of defender Ethan Etes to provide the winning points.

"What I loved most was our kids didn't flinch," Martin said. "They kept battling. We had to come back, fell behind, came back. I'm just so proud of them."

Ziegler rushed for over 70 yards and was 18-for-27 passing for 178 yards in his first varsity start.

"Boston did a great job of leading the team," Martin said. "I was real proud of the effort he gave and the clutchness -- he showed that clutch side of himself in basketball and he showed it again on the football field today."

Kinell finished with nine catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. And while cramping and injuries mounted up, the Wildcats received contributions from a long list of players. And although it was an offensive shootout, Marion's defense made two fourth-down stops in the game.

"There was no such thing as a snap that didn't matter in this game," Martin said.

Marion (1-0) travels to Jerseyville (0-1) this Friday.