116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The drive is about 32 minutes.
Make it an even 40 with a stop at a convenience store for breakfast pizza on the way to school. Add in another drive and Trey Franck returns home about 7:30 most nights.
He insists the commute from his new home in Newhall to Marion High School isn’t so bad. Franck has his music to help pass the time.
“It depends on the day,” Franck said. “If it’s a Friday gameday, I listen to hard rock. If it’s during the week, I’ll probably listen to some old country, like George Strait or Johnny Cash. I’m kind of an old country kind of guy. I’ll listen to some rap every now and then, but mostly country.
“It goes pretty quick. It’s a lot better than I thought it would be.”
Franck opted to open-enroll and continue to attend Marion, even though he moved with his family to their farm after the summer baseball season. He briefly considered transferring to a closer school, but didn’t want to leave his friends.
“My dad farms here and both of my parents are from Benton,” Franck said. “My dad just started harvesting (Thursday). We’ve had the farm in our family for over 100 years. It’s always been his dream to live on the farm, continue it and pass it down to his kids.
”It definitely crossed my mind (to transfer) … I wanted to be with my buddies, like Alex Mota.”
Interestingly, Franck’s breakout game coincided with the Wolves’ resurgence, posting two straight victories over ranked teams that began with a Week 2 win over Benton Community. The junior linebacker leads the team in almost every tackling category, entering Friday night’s game at Western Dubuque, and serves as the short-yardage back for a team that has already surpassed its win total from a year ago.
“Obviously, he spent his whole life in Marion and has friends and teams (here),” Marion Coach Michael Joyner said. “His plan all along was to stay. It says we’ve done some things right within our program and our school to have a kid willing to drive 35 to 45 minutes a day to be at school and practice to come early and stay late.”
Against the Bobcats, Franck scored three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving. He also had four tackles with two for loss. The Wolves rolled, 38-14, for their first win in almost a calendar year.
“A win is a win,” said Franck, whose cousin, Noah, plays for the Bobcats. “I wouldn’t say it mattered more to me. Obviously, it was nice to get a win against Benton. At the end of the day, it’s a win.”
The Wolves have gained a leader in the process. Franck has emerged as a surprise leader. Joyner praised a group of seniors who lead by example daily, especially at practice. Franck guides the team on the field, pushing his teammates to be better.
“Trey has done a really good job,” Joyner said. “His growth as a leader has been phenomenal. Last year, as a sophomore, he was a little bit in the background and that’s expected from a sophomore. His growth as a positive leader, not a put-down leader, has been fun to watch.”
Franck has tallied 25 tackles, including 20 solo and 4.5 for loss. The Wolves have benefited from a switch from a three-man front to a four-man front, allowing linebackers to pursue the ball. The Wolves have allowed just 13.5 points per game and 175.5 yards per game in two victories compared to 33.5 points and 344.5 yards in the first two weeks.
“It frees up Alex, Mason Kinney and me,” Franck said. “We play Alex at middle linebacker and he closes on the ball so well. It gives us a better chance at 1-on-1s with the running back and to make plays. It helps us.”
Preparation has improved for Franck and his teammates. Franck has watched more game video, breaking down plays at home with his dad on a big screen and admitting he sneaks a peek at Hudl during class. The entire team has devoted more time to film study and the effort has slowed down the game from Franck’s sophomore season.
“The goal every week is to know, in a sense, what they’re doing every play,” Franck said. “I want to call out what they’re doing before it happens.
“One big change in our program this year is we take film more seriously than last year. I give Coach Joyner credit for that.”
The Wolves (2-2) gained confidence from success and parlayed it into two wins in a row and two victories over DeWitt Central in as many years. Joyner said the Week 2 loss against Cedar Rapids Washington was closer than the score indicated, giving up a touchdown on an interception return that broke things open for the Warriors.
“We saw how our little mistakes were turning into big mistakes,” Joyner said. “We really went down to basics and made sure we were doing what we needed to be successful.
“We made sure to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands. It’s not like we’re getting the ball to Alex Mota. We’re getting it to multiple guys and our sophomore quarterback (Kaleb Diers) has really grown these last three weeks.”
Unlike the Benton game, last week’s was a tight contest decided in the final seconds.
After scoring on its first two possessions and enduring a defensive battle the rest of the game, Marion overcame a late turnover by forcing one. Ethan Hangartner’s heads-up play on a fumble recovery set up a game-winning drive against the Sabers.
Mota nearly capped the series with a sweep down to the 1 and Diers snuck it in from there to make it 20-13 with 2.8 seconds left. Marion posted back-to-back wins for the first time since 2018 and reversed a trend of losing one-possession games, including three last season.
“I knew we had talent and that the kids wanted to win,” said Joyner, who praised the work of his staff, especially assistant John Tursi. “We just didn’t know if they would be willing and able to put it together. Our coaches have been working hard. The players have been working hard. Sometimes hard work doesn’t always pay off (in wins).”