MARION — The mistakes were just too much to overcome.
Unable to generate much offense early, the Mt. Vernon Marauders struggled to match the unbeaten Marion Giants, losing 40-16 on Friday night at Dick Lootens Stadium.
Mt. Vernon (1-1), who survived 17-13 against Hamilton Heights last week, fell behind fast on the road. Overall, the youthful Marauders committed six turnovers, including three interceptions returned for touchdowns.
“Obviously, it’s hard to play when you make those types of mistakes. Last week, we were able to overcome it. This week, we were not,” Mt. Vernon head coach Neil Kazmierczak said. “We can’t do that if we want to be a successful football team.”
The Giants, who improved to 2-0, have now outscored their opponents 75-16 and did most of their damage behind senior quarterback Justin Johnson.
Johnson completed four passes for 44 yards and threw two interceptions, but he racked up 115 yards rushing on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
His first capped the Giants opening drive, measuring at 16 yards after running back JK Thomas kicked off the game with a 65-yard run.
Johnson’s longest run came on a 55-yard touchdown in the first quarter to put the Giants up 12-2. Darrell Brown scored Marion’s only other offensive touchdown on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
In between Johnson’s first trip to the end zone and the end, the Giants defense did the rest.
Following a safety early in the first quarter by Mt. Vernon’s Dylan Cole, who scooped up a lost fumble on a bad snap 8 yards from the end zone, things began to unravel for the Marauders.
The Giants picked off Marauders’ starting quarterback Tyson Harley four times, scoring three thrice.
Johnson scored the first with a 75-yard return on first down in the second quarter. Travis Metzger added a 23-yard INT return for a touchdown two series later to give Marion a 26-2 lead.
The final came in the third quarter as Brayden Burke ran an interception back for 28 yards and a 33-2 lead. Burke had two picks, including one on the Marauders second possession.
“We’re starting five sophomores and seven juniors. For a lot of these guys this is their first varsity action,” Kazmierczak said. “We’re still trying to find our identity.”
The Marauders passed 33 times and completed 11 attempts with the running game netting 21 yards on 27 carries. The one bright spot was Justice Hill’s 1-yard end-zone plunge in the fourth.
The touchdown was setup by an interception by Rylan Cole to put Mt. Vernon on Marion’s 23.
“We have to be more effective in the running game,” Kazmierczak said. “We can’t be a one-dimensional team.
“I was proud of how they fought. I saw no quit out of anybody.”
Brian Robinson showed the team’s grit as he blocked a punt attempt late in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown deep in Marion territory.
The cut Marion’s lead to 33-16 with 10:11 left in the game. The Giants responded with a 12-play drive, lasting seven minutes to put the Marauders away.