Marion a Conference Champion Again
MARION – After canceling its season just three years ago, the Marion football team is a conference champion for the first time since 1997.
Now in their third campaign as an 8-player program, the Eagles (5-1, 5-0) can call themselves league champions after securing at least a share of West Michigan D League title with a 64-0 win over Baldwin last Friday.
The 1990 Class DD state champion, Marion achieved gridiron success in the late 1980s and early 1990s and again in the mid-2000s before going a combined 7-45 in final six seasons at the 11-player level.
“We were always a fairly good team before, but then we ran into a numbers crunch where we just didn’t have the guys to compete anymore. Now that we do, we’re competing with pretty much the top level,” Marion coach Chad Jenema said. “I would say that we are right up there with some of the top teams in the state at this point in the season. We haven’t had a losing season since we went to eight man and I think that that’s what really has helped us. You know, the kids see that we can compete and that we do well.”
Marion became one of many northern Michigan schools to make the switch to 8-man when it left the Highland Conference following the 2014 season. Since making the move, the Eagles have gone 4-4 and 5-4, respectively.
“We were talking about it before Friday how it had been awhile since we had won the conference and I asked if any of them were even alive then and none of them were even alive then, so it just kind of goes to show how long it has actually been,” Jenema said. “The team feels really good about the situation, it’s our first year in the new conference and our third year in 8-man and since we went to 8-man it’s really been a benefit to our school and our program.”
Since dropping its season opener to a now-ranked Onekama team, Marion hasn’t looked back, outscoring conference opponents 268-22 and recording three shutouts.
“We’re playing teams more our size,” senior Chris Wengert said. “We’re not playing class C and B schools. So it’s a little bit easier to compete.”
With a conference title already in hands, the Eagles are now turning their attention to reaching the state playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“We need to cut down on the mistakes,” junior Billy Jenema said. “We’ve had some mistakes in the last couple games, so we need to cut down on those and just play our game and we’ll be good.”
“The least mistakes is what we are trying to aim for,” added senior Erick Carey. “When you have an evenly matched up game, usually the team that has the least mistakes is going to win.”
Marion travels to Manistee Catholic Central on Friday to close out league play.