MARION — Marion coach Kerry Martin has been waiting all season to see what his team is capable of.
Friday night, the Wildcats finally gave Martin a full four-quarter game, beating Althoff 38-22 on Marion's homecoming night.
The win lifts Marion to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the South Seven Conference. Althoff falls to 2-4 and 1-2 in conference play.
"We were falling short of four quarters," Martin said. "Last week was the closest we'd seen so far. I thought it was a great four-quarter effort against I think a very good football team."
For Althoff, it was another time where the Crusaders brought out the best in Marion.
"They get up for us," said Althoff coach Ken Turner. "Everybody gets up for us. We should expect that. They played a solid game and we made a lot of mistakes."
Mistakes got Althoff off on the wrong foot, as Marion squibbed the opening kickoff and it bounced off a Crusader before Marion recovered to start the game with the football. Brant Hill capitalized by hitting Jordan Bradford with a 15-yard scoring pass and the Wildcats were on the board.
Althoff regrouped as Eric Mertens hooked up with Malik Easley for a 14-yard pass to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter. Then late in the second quarter, Mertens pinned the Wildcats at the 1-yard line on a punt and Mitchell Bartle was tackled in the end zone on a running play for a safety to put the Crusaders ahead 9-7 with 4:51 left in the half.
But that opened the flood gates for the Wildcats, due in part to some costly turnovers. Mertens was intercepted twice, and Marion got a 28-yard field goal by Mitchell Wilkie and a 29-yard scoring pass from Hill to Brandon Osborne in the span of 48 seconds to take an 18-9 lead.
"We turned the ball over too many times and they capitalized on it," Turner said.
Althoff pulled within two at 18-16 just seconds later when the Crusaders ran a perfectly executed hook and ladder play. Mertens hit Keenan Young with a short pass and Young pitched the ball to Dennis Jackson, who bolted 53 yards for a score with just 31 seconds left in the half.
The Wildcats put the game away with 14 unanswered points in the third period. Marion scored on its first drive of the second half on a 13-yard pass from Hill to John Dalton to lead 25-16.
Late in the period, after another Althoff turnover, Hill scrambled out of trouble and scored on a 24-yard run to boost the lead to 32-16. Hill accounted for four of Marion's five touchdowns.
Each team scored a touchdown in the final quarter.
Hill was the difference maker in the game. The senior quarterback ran for 127 yards and a touchdown and was completed 11 of 19 passes for 174 yards and three scores. He completed passes to seven different receivers.
Mertens was 18-of-36 for 215 yards and three touchdowns. But he threw four interceptions and the Althoff running game managed just 93 yards.