Marion coach Shaun Craft’s worries about his team’s depth probably have been soothed.
“The toughest challenge will be getting the younger guys playing at varsity-level speed,” he fretted early this season.
He told the Warriors to show up ready to play – every Friday night if they want to win — and this past week they did, sealing a 26-7 victory over Ell-Saline on the road in Brookville.
Craft also demanded leadership from underclassmen, demanding each grade elect team captains.
Juniors Nathan Hoffner and Chance Shults were elected along with sophomores Jack Lanning and Jonathan Frese.
“That says a lot about our younger guys stepping up and taking charge,” Craft said.
Sophomore Trevor Schafers, was not picked to be captain, but rose to the occasion Friday against Ell-Saline, scoring several touchdowns for the Warriors.
“Senior Miles Olson has done a great job of being a leader on and off the field for us all throughout his high school career and we will definitely look to him to lead us through this season,” Craft said.
Hard work in the weight room has paid off in better speed and strength this year.
“We had more guys break the 400-pound mark in squat and 200-pound mark for cleans than we have had in years,” Craft said.
Craft’s goal is to continue winning games by competing in practice. He thinks the Warriors can score a winning season this year if they stay focused. The Warriors went 2-7 for the year last season.
“We have had a ton of guys show drastic improvements since last fall,” he said. “It’s difficult to point out specific individuals, but where I feel we have really improved is just being a better team and learning to work together as one unit.”
Marion junior Quade Williams and senior Ayden Brammer have performed well on the team’s offensive and defensive lines, he said.
Team captain Miles Olsen, a senior, also has been a role model this year.
“He has done a great job of being a leader on and off the field for us all throughout his high school career,” Craft said. “We will definitely look to him to lead us through this season.”
The Warriors will tackle a tough schedule with three opponents ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls.
First up will be Haven on Sept. 24 at home.
The Warriors will battle Trinity Catholic High the road Oct. 1 in Hutchinson and take on Hillsboro Oct. 8 at home.
“Each team we face will have some good athletes and be well coached,” Craft said.
Meanwhile, he is having a ball with hard-working athletes who are fun to coach.
“They make it fun to go to practice every day because they want to get better and do what it takes to be successful,” he said. “They have worked hard since our season ended last fall with the goal of getting us back to playoffs and competing like Warriors.”
Marion will face Douglass High at 7 p.m. Friday in its first home game.