Marion rolls past Greene County Tech

MARION -- Marion's defense recorded three sacks, forced a pair of turnovers and blocked a punt to record the Patriots' first shutout since 2018 in a 37-0 victory Friday night at Southern Bancorp Stadium.

Marion is 4-0 for the first time since 2011 ahead of a showdown next Friday night at Benton. Greene County Tech fell to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the 6A-East.

Junior tailback Jalen Smith rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns to spark Marion's offense, which also racked up almost 140 yards of penalties.

"That obviously has to change," third-year Marion Coach Lance Clark said. "I am glad we won. We continue to do things here that we haven't done in a very long time, and that's to be commended. But I see what our team could be if we cut out the mental mistakes, and that's what's irritating to me as a coach."

The Marion defensive effort started early on when the Pats forced a three-and-out and blocking the ensuing Greene County Tech punt and recovered at the Eagles' 3. Smith scored his first touchdown on the next play, and when quarterback Ashton Gray ran in on the 2-point conversion, Marion led 8-0 with 8:54 left in the first quarter.

Following a Victor Turner interception, Smith scored again on first down, sprinting 28 yards for the touchdown with 7:35 left in the first for a 15-0 Marion lead.

"It was very important for us to turn those turnovers into points," Clark said. "We feel like we have the type of defense that can turn you over while also preventing points. We did a little bit of both tonight, and we honestly really needed it."

The 15-point lead held until late in the second quarter when Marion came up with its biggest play of the game, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Gray to Christian Young with 4:57 left in the first half that gave Marion a 22-0 advantage.

Following a three-and-out, Marion took over and scored on a 5-yard sweep by Gray with 1:44 left in the third. Gray then hit Johnathan Guyton on the 2-point conversion to make it 30-0.

Marion got to the mercy rule with 2:38 left in the third when Smith scored from 2 yards out for a 37-0 lead.

"I liked how the offense responded to some sort of tough times early on," Clark said. "Some of it was self-inflicted, but we also came around and played the way I know that we can. The penalties were irksome, but some of the other mental mistakes also stick with you. The good news is that they're all correctable mistakes and we have another game to get ready for."

Marion, which is 3-0 in conference play for the second year in a row and just the third time since 1989, extended its winning streak against Greene County Tech to eight games, and the Golden Eagles have not beaten Marion since 2001.

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