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Marion's power surge kicked on after El Dorado

by Tony Burns | November 23, 2021 at 6:35 p.m.

 Marion will bring a very misleading 6-6 record into Friday’s 6A state semifinal game against El Dorado. The Patriots won six of their last seven, including their last five in a row.

Since losing to the Wildcats 36-7, Marion beat Pine Bluff, Sheridan, Jonesboro, Russellville and Benton, averaging 46.8 points per game in those victories.

“We haven’t made any giant personnel changes,” said Marion coach Lance Clark. “What we’ve done offensively, yeah, there’s some more motions, some more formations and we’ve honed in on some of that, a little more pre-snap movement from our offense and kind of disguise and horizontal stretch than we had previously.”

El Dorado’s Homecoming win over Marion led to the Patriots’ turnaround due to an injury to senior quarterback Ben Garrard.

“That all came about when we had our starting quarterback injured after the El Dorado game last time. We spent the next two weeks kind of redefining who we were offensively,” Clark said. “When he came back healthy, we just plugged him into that. It’s the same philosophy. We just kind of restructured it, a little more motion and movement, a little more tempo. But we’re still a line of scrimmage team, a run the ball team and take what’s there through the air.”

The Patriots defeated 6A East top seed Jonesboro 50-43 in the regular season finale and 6A West top seed Benton 59-37 last week. The Wildcats knocked off Lake Hamilton 48-27 last week.

“I thought all along the path to War Memorial went through El Dorado,” said Clark. “I just thought they were the top, I mean, obviously with Greenwood, Benton and Parkview, I thought they were the class of the conference. I thought if you were going to win a state championship in 6A, you were going to have to beat El Dorado at some point - maybe the first round, second round, third round or championship game - but you were going to have to go through them. So, yeah, I thought we would have to go back there depending on the seeding situation. So, we’re excited to get the opportunity to go back to El Dorado.”

Clark laughed out loud when asked if during the postgame handshake, he told El Dorado coach Steven Jones, I’ll see you again when we come back the day after Thanksgiving.

“No, I did not tell him that,” Clark said. “At that point I wasn’t quite sure if we’d see the next day. 

“But, no, they’re a class act over there. They run a good program. It’ll be a good challenging match-up. It’s always fun when you coach against other great coaches and programs with championship aspirations. It’ll be fun from a coaching chess match situation and for the players. Ultimately, it’ll come down to whose players can execute well and whose players are tough enough to handle adversity. That’s what it’ll come down to.”

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