When asked where a potential state title contender may come from, Grant County may not be one of the first answers. However, for the Giants of Marion High School, this dream may become reality soon.
Marion started off the season slow, losing their first two games to Eastbrook and Lawrence North, and it was not pretty either, losing 39-18 and 70-14, respectively. Since those two games, they did not put many feet wrong, going 8-1 en route to a highly anticipated sectional final matchup with Delta.
Falling just short in 2018, losing in the semi-state round, this year Marion took their fifth sectional title ever with a win over Delta 38-21 in class 4A. Former Delta head coach David Land cited Marion’s speed as what set them apart from Delta.
To get there, the Giants beat another local team, Mississinewa, 49-28 in the first round of the sectional. They beat Fort Wayne South 33-14 in the sectional semi-final round.
Led by first year head coach James Bell, Marion came out fast, taking a 28-0 lead in the first half and did not look back. Delta made it interesting closing to within 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“Whenever you get down like, people making big plays on you, it has an effect mentally on you,” Land said.
For Bell, a former Taylor University head football coach, it is his first sectional title as a coach in Indiana. It is an upgrade over last year’s finish for the Giants where they fell to Mississinewa on a late field goal in the sectional final.
Class 2A powerhouse, the Panthers of Eastbrook High School, were poised for yet another deep run into the postseason after making it to the state title game the past two seasons losing to Western Boone both years.
They finished the regular season 8-1 and won their conference with a 7-0 mark. They rode a lot of momentum into the postseason where they would fight for the sectional title in one of the toughest sectionals in the state, with three other teams that could potentially make it to the state finals, Lapel, Eastern (Greentown) and Tipton.
In the first round, Eastbrook beat Blackford 55-8. Unfortunately, in the sectional semi-final round, they were defeated by Tipton 56-39. Unlike Marion, Eastbrook fell behind early, 29-6 in the middle of the second quarter. Three turnovers in the first half contributed to Eastbrook falling behind early.
However, Eastbrook stormed back to take a 39-36 lead in the fourth quarter. Tipton would close the game out with a kick return for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown.
“Tipton’s a very good team and they took advantage of all of our mistakes,” Eastbrook head coach Jeff Adamson said.
Other local teams also found themselves in postseason play.
Oak Hill improved on last year's 4-6 record going 7-4 this year. They would beat Bellmont 28-0 in the first round of the sectional and lose to Fort Wayne Concordia 24-0 in the sectional semi-final round.
Madison-Grant received a bye in the first round of sectionals. In the sectional semi-final round, they defeated Tri-Central 28-12, before being beaten by undefeated South Adams 55-7 in the sectional final.
For next season, the hope is nearly the same for all coaches, the hope that COVID is a thing of the past. Around the state many teams saw their state title dreams end due to having COVID cases.
Delta ended up not playing their first game of the season due to contact tracing and not having enough players to play.
“If you would have told me week one, that we would have been able to play 11 weeks of football, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” Delta head coach Chris Overholt said.
Thankfully, none of the local teams ended up being affected in a big way by the virus when it came to tournament time.