116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — It’s right there in the background, taunting them all. Especially the seniors.
The football field and track at Marion High School isn’t completed. The LED lights are up, the locker room buildings look fairly close to being done.
But there’s a long way to go before the Wolves’ new den is ready.
“We’ve had shipping delays, construction delays, then you’ve had to worry about weather and all that kind of jazz,” said Marion Coach Michael Joyner during Monday afternoon’s first practice, the sounds of workers making progress on the facility in the background. “Right now, we’re not in that mindset that we’re worrying about where we play. We can’t control it.”
Where Joyner’s football squad will play its home games this season is back at historic Thomas Park, not what was anticipated. Even worse for the Wolves is that the new stadium is where the old practice field was located, directly behind the school.
Marion is having to practice on the school’s soccer field instead. This fits the pattern of recent seasons for the program, unfortunately.
A derecho destroyed Thomas Park and forced Marion to play its 2020 home games at Linn-Mar Stadium. Thomas Park was rebuilt enough to allow games to be played there last season.
“We can see the progress being made,” Joyner said. “If they can get done one week ahead of (schedule), we can play one game there. But we’re not holding our breath.”
Marion’s opener is Aug. 26 at Clear Creek Amana, with its home opener the following week against Cedar Rapids Washington. The regular-season finale is Oct. 21 against Waterloo East at home, whether that’s Thomas Park or the new stadium.
“I mean, I’ve always liked Thomas Park,” said senior Alex Mota. “It has so much tradition behind it. If this is ready, it’s ready. But I kind of like Thomas Park.”
Mota is a University of Iowa signee who will play a different position than the previous two seasons. He’s moving from quarterback to slot receiver.
Sophomore Kaleb Diers will be the new QB.
“I’m really happy to play a position I want to play,” Mota said. “To get the ball in space, make guys miss and score touchdowns. I think it’s going to be good for me and the team.”
Mota had never played quarterback until moving there and starting on the varsity as a sophomore two years ago. He’ll play receiver at Iowa.
“We started talking about it after the football season ended last year,” he said. “I told Coach Joyner that I didn’t really want to play QB anymore. It’s a lot, and I didn’t know if I could do it because I’m just not a QB. So we started talking about it. Kaleb is, like, 6-foot-6, he’s been hitting the weight room a lot. We’ve come out here about every day, we throw a lot.”
Joyner is particularly excited about his skill players: Mota, Diers, running back Kai Glade (who led the team in rushing in 2021) and Kaiden Griffith and Trey Franck (who led it in receiving). Marion went 1-8 last season, losing three games by a touchdown or less.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are stepping up with the varsity,” said senior lineman Jacob Lange. “The sophomore class has been putting in work since they were in the eighth grade ... We’ve gone out to the practice field even during the summertime, put in a lot of extra work. So we’re really excited. A redemption season.”
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