MARION — Facing a 3rd-and-11 from the opponent’s 16-yard line with under two minutes left Friday night, Trevor Paulsen took a shotgun snap from center. He paused, then ran up a wide-open middle on a quarterback draw for 14 yards and a clinching first down.
Great call, great execution.
From there, it was kneel, kneel, ballgame. Marion had finished off a 16-14 upset of Class 3A No. 8 West Delaware.
Oh, yeah, by the way, the Indians only had 10 guys on the field for Paulsen’s telltale run.
“I heard that after the play,” Paulsen said with a grin.
Ten against 11, 11 against 11, however you wanted to count it, Marion earned this win. One that gives it complete control of its Class 3A playoff hopes.
Beat Davenport Assumption next week, and the Indians are District 4 champs. Lose, and the season very likely could be over.
“This is a program-defining win for us, just in terms of where we want to go,” said Marion Coach Tim Lovell, in the middle of a mass celebration on the muddy Thomas Park field. “We’re not there, yet. I talked about how the best is yet to come. We still have to get another one this week in Davenport, on a short week. But we’re going to enjoy this tonight.”
As they should. Alex Whalen’s 27-yard field goal with 3:51 remaining turned out to be the difference.
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Whalen had an extra-point try following a 1-yard Paulsen TD sneak early in the fourth quarter smack off the right upright. This was redemption.
“Just tried to flush that,” he said. “I was a little nervous, but in warmups, I was making it from 45, so I knew I had the ability to make it. I just tried to kick it as hard as I could, keep my head down and not slip. Once I kicked it, I knew it was through.”
Marion then recovered a disputed West Delaware fumble near midfield. Hawks quarterback Nick Casey’s arm was hit as he was about to throw a pass, the ball ruled a fumble instead of an incompletion after a huddle by the officials.
“Depends on who you ask,” said West Delaware Coach Doug Winkowitsch, when asked his opinion of the play. “I thought his arm was coming forward.”
Fullback Jordan Bries had a pair of short touchdown runs for the Hawks (6-2, 5-1), who will still get into the playoffs if they beat Maquoketa next week. WD, Marion and Assumption all are tied atop the district.
The second of those Ries scoring runs was followed by Caleb Zehr’s extra point for a 14-13 Hawks lead with 7:59 remaining. Marion (6-2, 5-1) got a 45-yard run from Chris Mohwinkle on the very next play to move the football to the WD 22.
The Indians’ drive stalled inside the 10, but Whalen came on for his huge kick.
“Just a slug-it-out, drag-down, knockout fight, and our guys responded,” Lovell said. “When we saw that the weather was coming in (pregame), our guys really relished the challenge. The last four weeks have really been about our defensive line and our linebacker play, and owning it up front. It came down to the fundamentals tonight. The guys just wanted to finish, get to that next level.”
Marion’s two losses have been to Dubuque Wahlert and Benton Community, when it was soundly beaten up front on both sides of the ball. This is a much different team.
Marion outgained West Delaware, 296-269. The Indians outrushed the Hawks, 174-94.
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“After those two losses, we really saw what we needed to improve on,” Paulsen said. “We’ve had a few good games in a row, the line started blocking well. From there, they’ve just been blocking great. They’ve been awesome.”
“We’ve just got to learn from this and grow from it,” Winkowitsch said. “Try to get better and understand that in a game like this, where you’ve got a quality opponent, every single snap matters. I thought we left some opportunities out there and didn’t capitalize on some things. Sometimes those things happen.”
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