Marion keeps it simple, finds itself on verge of Class 3A football playoffs

Make-or-break game Thursday night at Davenport Assumption

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MARION — After a loss to Dubuque Wahlert a month ago, Tim Lovell decided to prop up his demoralized Marion football team by giving it a collective kiss.

Or KISS. No, not the band.

“I’m a big KISS guy: ‘Keep It Simple (Stupid),’” Lovell explained.

That meant going back to more of the basics. Work hard on improving things up front on both sides of the ball and maintain a less-complicated approach offensively, stressing running the ball with backs Chris Mohwinkle and JuCorey Higgins.

Four wins followed, including a 16-14 upset last Friday night of West Delaware. Marion (6-2) is now in control of its playoff destiny.

Win Thursday night at Brady Street Stadium against Davenport Assumption (6-2), and the Indians are in the Class 3A field as District 4 champion. Lose, and the season is very likely over.

Marion, Assumption and West Delaware are tied atop the district at 5-1. West Delaware will be in the playoffs as either district champ or runner-up if it wins Friday against Maquoketa (0-8).

It’s just that simple. Get it?

“I think mentally we have a better edge now,” said Marion senior lineman/linebacker Caleb Wagner. “We’ve been more physical in practice. We realized what we needed to work on, especially up front, and it worked pretty well in the (following) weeks. I feel like each week we’ve been getting better and better. The best teams get better toward the end of the season.”

Marion lost to Benton Community in a non-district game Week 2, 17-14, then lost its second district game to Wahlert, 34-14. Both defeats came primarily because the Indians’ lines were dominated.

“Especially in that Wahlert game, we really got beat up front,” said junior lineman Nick Cole. “Ever since then, the coaches have really been stressing the importance of winning in the trenches. If we’re going to win, we need to win it up front. A lot of us moving forward as a team is us progressing as an offensive and defensive line. That has really helped.”

“It just comes down to simplifying and understanding what you are trying to do,” Lovell said. “Give credit to Ray Reasland, our defensive coordinator. He simplified things for us on defense. We’re not doing a lot. We’ve just got guys who are flying to the ball, staying low on the snap and having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”

Evidence that Marion has improved up front came against West Delaware. Rain fell pregame, which made the Thomas Park turf muddy and sloppy.

The team that was able to win the trench battle was likely to win the game. That team was Marion, which enjoyed a 176-83 rushing edge.

“Coach has been stressing to us just to play free,” Cole said. “We’re going to make it as simple as possible. We just need to go out there and play as aggressively as we can, and that’s what we’ve done.”

“Offensively, we have simplified things (as well),” Lovell said. “I don’t know if you saw us do many complicated things (against West Delaware), but we didn’t. We went to the Pro-I formation back against Maquoketa four weeks ago, and the guys love it. That is basic smash-mouth football. It’s funny that you have all these great ideas about what you want to do, considering all the skill guys that we have. But they respond to the simple stuff, and that’s awesome.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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