Although the Marion Wildcat (5-3, 4-1) easily defeated the Carbondale Terriers (2-6, 1-4) Friday night, Marion head coach Kerry Martin admitted there was plenty of athletic talent on the field for Carbondale.
“Carbondale hasn’t had a great season record-wise, but it has a lot of talent,” said Martin after last Friday’s win. “That’s why you have to get out to a lead early on a team like that.”
This season, the Terriers have made a habit of not being ready to play in the first part of games. They have been behind so often that the opposing defenses can concentrate on one aspect of defending the Terriers — its passing game.
After Marion zoomed to a 21-0 first quarter lead, it became pretty obvious the Terriers were going to need to put the ball in the air. Carbondale ended up throwing the ball 34 times throughout the night. If a coach knows his opposition is going to throw, his approach to defense is simplified.
“Our pass defense was awesome,” Martin said. “We knew they were going to throw a lot and scramble some.”
The Terriers only ran for 11 total yards in the first half on 21 carries. Yet with sophomore Tavaris Macklin heating up (15 carries for 125 rushing yards) Carbondale scored its 21 points with a 13-yard touchdown pass by junior quarterback Jakeba Burleigh at the 7:35 mark of the third quarter and a 30-yard touchdown run by Macklin in the fourth quarter.
“Macklin is just a sophomore making his first start,” Carbondale head coach Bryan Lee said. “He has some speed but also is a change of pace runner.”
Burleigh looks to have a bright future as he hit on 19 of 34 pass attempts while under intense pressure from the Wildcat’s defensive Line. He accumulated 187 yards and completed two touchdown passes for the night.
“Marion’s defensive Line was as good or better than Belleville Althoff’s,” Lee said.
That defensive line controlled the game for Marion, and it wasn’t that the Terriers didn’t occasionally move the ball.
In fact, on the stat sheet, Carbondale and Marion were quite even for the night. CCHS had 19 first downs to Marion’s 12 and were almost even in total yards (369 yards for Marion to 312 for CCHS). However, Marion’s explosive plays were the difference, many of those plays going for points.
For example, in the decisive first quarter, Marion running back Caden Hilliard scored on a 13-yard run. Marion quarterback David Fletcher hit wide receiver Dylan Kinell with a 16-yard touchdown strike Fletcher again hooked up with Kinell for 13 yards, leading to a seven-yard scoring scamper by Jaden Lacey.
Marion finished the night tied with two other South Seven teams for first place.
“We’ll take first whether it’s shared or outright,” Marion said. “It’s still a big deal for us.”
The Terriers will end its season Friday against Harrisburg in Carbondale. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.