116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — They have been playing football games at Thomas Park since 1936.
There still is one game remaining, the season-finale against Waterloo East on Oct. 21, but the final homecoming game for Marion at the venerable field was one to be remembered.
The Wolves offense was bottled up for most of the game, with the exception of two plays, the second of which was an 80-yard run from senior Alex Mota with 5:20 remaining.
That score gave Marion a 14-13 lead and it took two defensive stands over the final five minutes, the last culminating with Decorah's Erik Hjelle coming up short on a field-goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining that allowed that score to hold, sending the Wolves and their fans into a wild celebration.
“This game tonight just showed how much our guys really believe in each other,” said Marion Coach Michael Joyner. “Our defense bent a bit on the first drive of the second half, but they did a whole heck of a lot better in the fourth quarter.”
And, as Joyner was quick to point out, it doesn't hurt to have an athletic talent like Mota on the roster. The University of Iowa commit hadn't done much over the first three quarters. However, when Decorah took a 13-7 lead on a 1-yard plunge from Hjelle with 5:34 remaining, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound speedster seized the moment.
“We made the big plays when we had to,” Joyner said. “It's always nice when you have good athletes and you get the ball in their hands and let them win the game.”
The play was a basic part of the Wolves’ veer package. Mota read the movement of the Decorah defensive end, then it was simply a race to the end zone between Mota and the Vikings’ defensive backs.
“To me, the key on that play was the offensive line,” Mota said. “We had struggled some but I just trusted my guys and they made a play and it turned out to be a good run for me, too."
After a scoreless first half, Decorah (2-5, 0-3 4A District 2) came out and marched the ball 70 yards for the first score. Jaden Baker’s 19-yard run put the Vikings up 7-0 with 7:49 left in the third quarter.
It didn't take Marion (3-4, 1-2) long to respond. That score came from an unlikely source. Senior Elliott Dyrland's first catch of the season was a big one. He took a short pass from quarterback Kaleb Diers, broke away from a Decorah defender and sprinted 42 yards to the end zone for the tying score.
Joyner was elated to see Dyrland get into the end zone.
“He had one catch for negative-2 yards last year,” Joyner said. “This was his first catch this year and his first varsity touchdown. He comes to work every day in practice and he does a heck of a job for us.”
Marion's players got to experience the future on Thursday and the past on Friday. They got to get on the playing surface at their new facility for one practice. It will be off limits now as work on the track won't allow access to the turf.
Then they came out and won the final homecoming game to be played at the 88-year-old field that will be turned into a new school for the Marion district.
“We really like it down here (at Thomas Park),” Joyner said. “It has a lot of character. We got a chance to send Thomas Park out in style.”