Marion County's first-year football coach Mac McCurry knows that most of his players know only the tales of the program's proud football history. Instead of reaching back into the distant past, he chose to delve into more recent history.
One year after losing to Grace Academy by 49 points (63-14), Marion County took care of business Friday night in pasting the Eagles 48-13 on Grace's homecoming night.
"We brought it up. I mean, we had to. You have to talk about it," McCurry said about last year's loss. "We've had some success this year and haven't handled it very well. I was more nervous about this game than any one we've played this year."
The nerves were warranted for most of the first half as Grace (1-5) rallied without its starting quarterback Josh Smith, who went down early with a separated shoulder. After falling behind 12-0, the Golden Eagles pulled to within a touchdown one minute before halftime on Will Slack's 8-yard run.
Marion County (6-2) got the ensuing kickoff to midfield and needed just four plays and 57 seconds before Matt Zeman hit Eric Qualls on a slant pass from the 6 to push the margin back to 18-6.
"That was a huge score for us. They had seized the momentum and you just never know. We were able to seize it back," McCurry said.
The Warriors came out in the third period and scored on their first three possessions and in lightning quick fashion. The first score took two plays, Blake Zeman scoring his second TD on a 37-yard run. After a Grace punt, Matt Zeman added an 11-yard run to make it 31-7, and the nervousness was gone.
"This was our most complete effort," McCurry said. "We are not there yet, but the players are buying into what we are doing. Grace is a fine team and you have to stay disciplined or they will burn you."
Blake Zeman led the Warriors with his 161 rushing yards and also caught a highlight reel 8-yard pass in which he fought off three defenders to score on a fourth-down toss. Marion wound up with 400 rushing yards.
Grace got 133 rushing yards from Aaron Tisdale, but with Smith on the sideline, the Eagles' offense was missing a vital cog.
"He has been our core for a long time and it hurt us, but they whipped us tonight," Grace coach Bob Ateca said.
Marion County took advantage of three lost fumbles by the Eagles, including one on the very first offensive play that set the Warriors attack on go. Chandler Willis, Hamilton Shoemaker and Josh Henderson also had TD runs for the winners, while Tisdale and Slack had Grace's scores.
Marion returns home for a date with Copper Basin next Friday, while the Eagles hit the road to play Harriman.