Marion County stymies Indians in A-Public final

Terance Johnson

Marion County rode Lorenzo Smothers, A.J. Wells and a dominant defense to its first state title by defeating Charlton County 12-3 in the Class A-Public final on Saturday afternoon. A resurgent football program that had already won three region titles since Mike Swaney took over as head coach in 2009 is now taking the biggest prize back to Buena Vista.


“I’m so happy for these kids and this community. Did you see those people?” Swaney asked, nodding toward a boisterous crowd. “There was nobody left in Marion County. These people suffered in football for years. Now to bring this to this community and these kids…lifetime memories. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”


Charlton County’s offense was a part of this game for all of one drive. The Indians received the opening kickoff and wasted no time turning it into points thanks to an efficient drive led by running back Andrew Lee. Marion County’s defensive ultimately held, but Thomas Johnson booted a 25-yard field goal to put Charlton County in front.


Before Marion County really got going, both Smothers and Wells struggled. Smothers fumbled on the Eagles’ first possession, but he made up for it by picking off a Trae Harrington pass just a few minutes later. The teams traded missed field goals early in the second quarter, with Wells unsuccessful from 49 yards out and Johnson failing to convert a 30-yard try. Not far away from being held scoreless in the first half, the Eagles managed to get on the scoreboard. Dustin Eckert threw a short pass over the middle to Trae Swanson, who took it for 68 yards down to the Charlton County 10-yard line with 34 seconds remaining. That set up a 22-yard field goal by Wells, making the score tied at the intermission.


On its second drive of the second half, Marion County opted to punt on fourth down from Charlton County’s 34-yard line despite having one of the state’s best kickers in Wells. It proved to be a perfect decision, because Wells’ punting prowess is also undeniable. Wells pinned the Indians on their 1-yard line and they fumbled the ball out of the back of the endzone two plays later to give Marion County a safety. The Eagles continued to dominate the field-position battle when Wells again forced Charlton County to start a drive inside its 10-yard line. A Charlton County punt gave Marion County the ball near midfield and that led to the game’s first touchdown. Eckert found Smothers in the front corner of the endzone with a 22-yard strike as the Eagles soared ahead 12-3. Smothers finished with 20 carries for 121 yards to go along with 31 receiving yards. Marion County’s next possession started at its opponent’s 47-yard line. Points did not materialize, but another Smothers-led drive took time of the clock and eventually gave the ball back to Marion County on its own 1-yard line yet again. That resulted in Charlton County’s fifth of six consecutive second-half possessions without a first down.


“We were going to play it the whole way,” Swaney said of the field-position battle. “Once I saw that defense playing [well], and I knew I had that kicker (Wells), we were going to either kick the ball or go for it on fourth down to keep them pinned down. We were going to let the defense do the rest. I do think that second-half field position was huge.”


“Our goal was to do exactly what happened,” Wells said of his punt that led to a safety. “We were thinking about hitting a long field goal; it was still 3-3 back then. Coach said, ‘You think you can pin them?’ I said, ‘I think so. Let’s do it.’ We got our defense out there and our defense made the plays, so it ended up working out.”


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