Breaking News Bar

Marion extends postseason streak with win over Carbondale

  • Marion's James Gunn brings down Carbondale quarterback Jakeba Burleigh during Friday night's game at Wildcat Stadium.

    Marion's James Gunn brings down Carbondale quarterback Jakeba Burleigh during Friday night's game at Wildcat Stadium.
    All photos by Justin Walker

updated: 10/14/2018 2:29 AM

MARION -- Fourteen points were enough to extend the area's longest postseason streak to 14 years.

The freshmen on the Marion High School football team might not have even been alive the last time the Wildcats weren't in the playoffs and the run continues after Marion battled past Carbondale, 14-7, on a miserable rainy Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.

An annoying cold rain didn't dampen the Homecoming or Senior Night festivities and certainly didn't ruin the party of officially extending the streak with the sixth win of the season.

Fourteen years in a row. Let it sink in, Marion fans.

"That's a lot of years," said Marion coach Kerry Martin. "It's not an easy thing and you have to re-earn it every year. Previous years don't count toward the next year. ... I'm just proud of our kids. They continue to keep working and battling and keep believing, no matter what graduation does to us, that the next group can do it."

It was fitting that it happened during the South Seven Conference's rivalry week against a resurgent Terriers squad that also has six wins and is playoff-bound this season.

Carbondale gave the Wildcats all they could handle and struck first with Korey Blythe's 4-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left in the first quarter after an early field position battle led to a short field. Amiel Gould nailed the PAT kick in a strong rain to make it 7-0.

Blythe finished with 22 carries for 116 yards.

Marion's defensive line played outstanding the entire night and the biggest moment came when Carbondale threatened to take a two-score lead after an 81-yard drive in the second quarter.

Blythe had scored again but the Terriers were flagged for a penalty, then on fourth-and-goal from near the goal line, the Wildcats made a stop and took over on downs. It was one of several big plays from linemen Quinton Patterson, Justin Lambert and James Gunn on the night.

After trading punts, the Wildcats tied it on a short run by Drake Gravatt with 49 seconds left in the half. The score was set up by some punishing runs from quarterback Boston Ziegler that got Marion to the doorstep. Tyson Stoecklin's extra-point kick made it 7-7. Gravatt had 25 carries for 94 yards.

What proved to be the winning score came with 4:14 left in the third quarter when Ziegler found a wide-open Frankie Horner over the middle of the Carbondale secondary for a 44-yard touchdown. Ziegler passed for just over 100 yards and Horner had three total catches for 73 yards for the game.

Marion's defense was stellar in holding Carbondale's shifty quarterback Jakeba Burleigh from getting far out of the pocket. Horner had an interception early in the game and more big plays came from Noah Mofield, Dylan Kinell, Wyatt Fox and Gravatt on defense, just to name a few.

Burleigh was held to 5 of 26 passing for just 74 yards.

And it was needed on a night when Marion had two turnovers, not including a blocked field goal, and didn't reach the 300-yard mark on offense -- despite a charge from senior lineman Gunn getting his first carry of the season and plowing for 16 yards.

"The defense played great," Martin said. "I don't know that we've had a season in memory where the defense has kept us in or won us ballgames like this year. ... Our kids in the secondary got their hands on a lot of balls. We made plays on the ball and even the passes they completed their guys weren't wide open. Our guys did a really good job."

Marion stopped Carbondale on downs five times in all, including the Terriers' last three possessions. The final stop came with 1:35 left on the clock and the Wildcats gained just 5 yards after that as Carbondale used three timeouts to stop the clock. It appeared Marion would have to punt back to Carbondale with 1:13 remaining.

But a shift in motion -- Ziegler started in shotgun and then moved back to a punter's stance -- combined with a hard count caused the Terriers to jump offsides. It gave the Wildcats a free first down and ability to run out the clock.

"I didn't call that. That was a Noah Mofield call," Martin said. "The coaches upstairs recommended a freeze play out of our regular offense and Noah said why not run a freeze play out of our punt set because they'll be really amped up to come and get it. So we did it. He was smart enough to call that set play and I was smart enough to listen to him.

It was a great idea. We had a timeout left so if they didn't jump we were going to call timeout and punt it."

Marion is now 6-2 and finished 4-1 in the South Seven with the only loss to Cahokia, which swept the slate. Carbondale is 6-2 and 3-2.

The Wildcats finish the regular season at Mattoon this coming Friday.