TIFFIN — You kind of wondered if the way the first half ended might have been the end for Marion’s football team. Turned out it was just the beginning.
The Indians scored 18 unanswered points in the final two quarters and stunned Clear Creek Amana, 18-14, in a Class 3A first-rounder Friday night. It’s Marion’s first playoff win in eight years.
Lucas Unsen’s 2-yard touchdown run with just under seven minutes left capped off quite an improbable comeback, especially considering the discouraging way the first half ended for Marion (3-4). The Indians saw the clock run out on them with the ball at the CCA 4-yard line, the first time in the game they had done anything offensively.
Instead of being an emotional crippler, it was a springboard.
“Our kids have just not quit,” said an emotional Marion Coach Tim Lovell. “We were down last week in the second half to DeWitt (Central), 17-8, took the lead in the fourth quarter. We should have won that game, credit DeWitt. But we just sent that message, that the game was not over. We’ve got 24 minutes to remember for the rest of your life. Quite honestly, they took it to heart. We came out with a little trickery, and that worked out really well.”
Yeah, trickery. Marion’s first offensive play in the second half was a game-changing 61-yard touchdown off a double-reverse pass from Wyatt Cannon to Alex Mota.
Mota is Marion’s quarterback, Cannon a receiver. Mota went up receiver like here over a CCA defender to snag Cannon’s throw, breaking a tackle at about the 25 and and housing it to make it a 14-6 game.
“That gave us a lot more hope, a lot more momentum in the second half that we could win the game,” said Mota. “We just finished it.”
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“I think that touchdown just really changed the momentum and gave our kids hope,” Lovell said. “We continued to fight, didn’t stop. We got a couple more chances, got a couple more scores. Credit our offensive coaches for helping me stay with the game plan and do what got us there, and that was run the ball.”
Mota’s 1-yard TD sneak capped an 83-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, the 2-point try failing and allowing CCA (4-4) to keep a 14-12 lead. But safety Mota recovered a fumble on CCA’s ensuing possession and returned it to the Clippers 31, leading to Unsen’s winning TD.
“We started out a little slow. I don’t think we were ready to play at the very start of that game,” said Unsen. “But we knew at halftime, down 14 points, we could come back from that. We just came out way stronger than we did in the first half. The line fired off the ball, got after it. They really did.”
CCA ended up getting two offensive possessions after Unsen’s touchdown, but went three-and-out on the first and turned it over on downs at the Indians 40 on the second with just over a minute left. Marion recovered three CCA fumbles in the game, which was crucial.
Quarterback Ryan Navara threw a pair of second-quarter touchdowns, one to Alex Figueroa, the other to Tom Johnson, to stake CCA to its 14-0 lead. Marion plays a second-round game next week at No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier (7-0).
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