MARION — It was not fun. An 0-9 season is never, ever fun.
Quite bluntly, it sucks.
“Was definitely tough last year, having things go the way they did,” Garret Wagner said.
“I mean, you go out there with a lot of hope. High hopes for the season,” said Kaden Swanger. “You see the numbers not going your way, and you end up going 0-9, it’s a little tough.”
Wagner, Swanger and the rest of the guys who went through that donut 2019 with the Marion football team already have had to deal with a bunch of other adversity as they attempt to reverse course on the field and the scoreboard.
There’s playing during the COVID-19 pandemic, obviously. There is last week’s calamitous derecho storm that devastated their city, their school, some of their homes and their field.
Thomas Park is a mess.
“Me, my sister and her boyfriend went down there right after the storm hit to look at it,” Swanger said. “The roof of the press box is off. Our utility shed, the back wall is gone and so is the roof. One of the light poles fell down. There are sections of bleachers on the field. It’s a sight to see.”
Marion wasn’t able to practice at all last week, getting its first official workout in Monday night on a baseball diamond at Excelsior Middle School. That’s part of the Linn-Mar school district, and Linn-Mar Stadium is where the Indians’ three scheduled home games will be played on Saturday afternoons, not Friday nights.
Marion’s season opener next week at Washington (Iowa) has been canceled, meaning it’ll be a six-game regular season, health permitting.
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“These guys have just rolled with the punches,” fifth-year head coach Tim Lovell said. “I told them (Monday) that we weren’t going to have our first game, and they were like ‘OK, then when’s our first game?’ I told them it was (Center Point-Urbana) and, oh, by the way, we’re going to be playing at Linn-Mar. They were like ‘OK, anywhere, anybody, anytime.’ They are all in. They just want to play football.”
And they want to be successful.
“It’s a new drive, basically,” said Swanger, a senior lineman. “We’ve never really had this problem before under Coach Lovell. A lot of the seniors that played last year, you go a whole season without a win, you are that much more hungry for one this upcoming season.”
“Our first practice had just a completely different feel,” said Lovell. “We had such a purpose and energy and confidence. A group of motivated young men, seniors in particular. And that’s not to say the junior class also isn’t very motivated. But this senior class has generally been pretty successful. They really don’t want to go out like last year. They want to flip a switch, leave a legacy.”
Marion really struggled offensively last season, accumulating just over 1,000 total yards in nine games. Lovell switched to a triple-option attack because he felt it best fit his personnel, but he is going back to a more spread attack this season.
Either sophomore Alex Mota or junior Jaqson Tejada will lead that attack at quarterback.
“We have a lot of kids who were sophomores last year who came up and played some on varsity,” said Wagner, a senior tight end-defensive end. “So they are kind of like coming into veteran roles right now. I just think everybody is excited.”
“The coaches are all in,” Lovell said. “We’ve flipped our coaching model, so we have one coach per position. We have an offensive staff and a defensive staff. So our 9-10 team is practicing offense and our varsity team is practicing defense. Then we flip halfway through the practice. And then we work on special teams. The coaches coach their positions and just flip fields. After the first day, I was blown away by the great job our coaches were doing and just how well the kids were working together.”
Marion, at a glance
Coach: Tim Lovell (4 years, 16-20 record)
Last year: 0-9
Top returners: DB Ryan Paulsen, RB Lucas Unsen, L Kaden Swanger, TE-DE Garret Wagner, L Cory Fairbanks, L Thomas McAllister.
Sept. 5 — Center Point-Urbana
Sept. 10 — at Davenport Assumption
Sept. 18 — at Clinton
Sept. 26 — Dubuque Wahlert
Oct. 3 — North Scott
Oct. 9 — at DeWitt Central
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