For the Daily Reporter
FORTVILLE — A standout guard for the Marion basketball team, JK Thomas, helped the Giants capture a sectional hardcourt title last winter.
The speedster appears on track to deliver equal success for the Marion football program.
Thomas, a junior, scored five touchdowns in the Class 4A No. 13 Giants’ 42-24 win against Mt. Vernon on Friday, churning up the Marauders’ artificial turf and handing the home team its first setback of the young season.
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“Killed us,” said Mt. Vernon head coach Mike Kirschner, whose club defeated Hamilton Heights 43-14 a week ago. “We hit him early and didn’t want to hit him after that. I was disappointed with our physicality … if you don’t want to hit, you can’t win.”
Marion (2-0) started quickly Friday, with Thomas tallying a 77-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-12 on the game’s opening drive. The 5-foot-8 Thomas, who occasionally lined up at quarterback, added a 44-yard touchdown run and a 67-yard punt return for another score before the half was over.
Giants starting quarterback Keshaun Taylor added a 10-yard touchdown scramble as time expired on the first half.
The Giants led 28-17 at the break, with Mt. Vernon (1-1) recovering a fumble in the end zone for one score and Max Burhenn pulling in a 15-yard pass from quarterback Tyson Harley for the Marauders’ other touchdown of the opening half. AJ Swingle added a 42-yard field goal for Mt. Vernon.
In last week’s win against Hamilton Heights, Harley threw for 221 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Friday, Harley passed for 140 yards and one touchdown, but Marion nabbed three interceptions.
“Didn’t execute,” Kirschner said of the Marauders’ passing attack. “And I don’t want to take anything away from Marion, because their kids played really well. They’re really athletic and their strength is in their defense, but (Harley) misread several.”
Neither squad found the endzone in the third quarter, then Thomas added two more scores — a 38-yard reception from Taylor and a 47-yard run — sandwiched around a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Harley, a senior, for the Marauders in the final quarter.
The Marauders were aiming for their first 2-0 start since 2013. Now, the onus is on the players to stay above .500 next week, their coach noted.
“We’re only two games into it, but they’ve got to want to fix it,” Kirschner said. “If they don’t want to fix it, it doesn’t matter what we tell them. It’s got to be internal. If they don’t show up (next week), they’ll be in for a long run.”
Mt. Vernon will open its Hoosier Heritage Conference slate next week with homecoming against Greenfield-Central (0-2), the second of three straight home games for the Marauders. Class 5A No. 5 Whiteland defeated the Cougars 35-7 Friday. The Cougars blanked Mt. Vernon 27-0 last season. In Week 4, Class 5A No. 1 New Palestine (2-0) will visit Fortville.
Dylan Cole led the Marauders with 50 yards rushing on 15 carries. He also had a team-high 53 yards receiving on six catches. Mt. Vernon’s Braxton Trittipo had four receptions for 47 yards. … Kirschner saw a 15-game win streak snapped. He led Ben Davis to a 14-0, state-title winning season a year ago. … The Marauders have lost three straight games to Marion. The Giants defeated Mt. Vernon by a combined 71-16 in 2016 and 2017. … Mt. Comfort Elementary fourth-grader Tyler Ralstin served as an honorary captain as part of Fight Like Ty night. Ralstin is battling leukemia. … Mt. Vernon freshman Ashden Gentry converted a 2-point conversion with a 2-yard run following Burhenn’s second-quarter score.