Marion is Smaller But Quicker This Season
MARION – Change is never easy.
It's especially never easy when you're coming off a season that ended in the second round of the playoffs, and sends away 20-plus seniors who played key roles.
But such is life for the Marion football team, who went 8-3 last season. And even though 2013 will require a change in approach, that doesn't mean there will be a change in expectation.
"Last year's group really matured into something special. We knew they were going to be something special because they were a large group, plus the (offensive) line was all intact for three years," said Marion Coach Tony Perkins. "(The goals) really don't (change).
"(The players) expect to be up there trying for a crown. They expect to get to the playoffs. And there's no way to even think any differently."
The biggest change, as Perkins sees it, is on that offensive line.
Last year's line was led by the 6-foot-8, 340-pound Zach Borens, and they used that size across the board to pave the way for the likes of Trev Biery and returning quarterback Trevor Hardman. And with size across the entire team – not just the offensive line – gone, this year's squad will have a new look.
"Last year's team was a big, bruising, in-your-face, drive off the ball-type team. This is not going to be that type of team," Perkins said. "Our line this year will be better this year than we were last year. Even though we're not as big, we're not asking to do the same thing."
Losing size – and the starting tail back – and shifting to speed across the entire team, it would be easy to assume the Indians would be hurt in the running game.
But to ask Perkins, the opposite is true. The shift from size to speed applies not only to the offensive line, but to the backfield as well. And this year's starter-to-be, Colton Mowry, saw the field plenty last season, gaining 423 yards on 45 carries and scoring five touchdowns.
Mowry fits the mold Perkins set of being quick and agile, and the coach believes Marion will have even more success on the ground this season.
"We've got a lot of finesse kids out there that can catch the ball that can run," Perkins said. "(Last year's offensive) line would line up in the dirt and push you off the ball. This line isn't going to have to do that, and we're not going to have to ask them to do that. They're more athletic, so we run better.
"We're going to run a lot better."
Perkins pointed to other players who fit that mold as well. The coach said senior wide receiver Quinn Cannoy – who is the only returning receiver to catch a pass before this season – is "exactly that," and Hardman should benefit from the change.
Hardman – who had an "average year" last year at quarterback by Perkins' standards – said he won't have to alter his game much with the shift to a more finesse style.
"I know that my lineman, they're going to bust their butt to block every play," Hardman said. "It's not always about size, because there's always those quick guys on the (opposing) defensive line that, if you have a big guy, (you wonder), 'Is he going to be able to get out there and block him?'
"This year, they may be smaller, but with the weight program we have, it's making them more explosive. They're strong and can move people, too."
So though there are some hurdles to cross and kinks to work out, there's little doubt among the players whether the change will work.
Offensive lineman John Gorman, who returns this season as the new anchor for the line, said with conviction he has supreme confidence in what the Indians are trying to do.
"(The changes) definitely (will be effective). We've always been athletic, throughout our high school careers," Gorman said. "We want to pound it. We may be small, but we're ready to come at whoever's willing to take us on. And I feel confident in every single person that stands next to me on that line."