Marion County gained experience during tough run

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / E.J. Wilson, a running back and defensive back, is expected to be a key player for Marion County this season.


Head coach: Tim Starkey (5-5 here and overall)

Returning starters: 7 offensive; 8 defensive

Last year's record: 5-5, did not qualify for TSSAA Class 2A playoffs

Key players: E.J. Wilson (5-10, 200) Sr. RB/DB, Brody Leonard (6-1, 185) Sr. RB/DB, Sam Pickett (6-0, 175) Jr. ATH/DB, Taylor Scharber (6-2, 205) Jr. TE/LB, Ryan Kitchen (6-1, 215) Sr. OL/DE, Tilton Pickett (6-0, 170) Jr. QB, Braydon Coffelt (6-2, 225) Jr. MLB, Kane Bohannon (6-4, 305) Sr. OT, Chase McFalls (5-11, 200) Jr. C.

Season outlook: A string of early injuries played a significant role in derailing the Warriors' 2022 season and keeping them out of the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. The silver lining, however, is that because so many underclassmen were forced to play — eight sophomores started along the way — Marion now has loads of experience returning.

Among the returners will be an impressive list of skill position talent, led by the versatile Sam Pickett, who will get touches at receiver and running back in addition to special teams while also starting in the secondary, as well as classmate Tilton Pickett, who enters his second season starting at quarterback.

"Tilton got thrown into the fire as a sophomore, but sort of like the rest of the team, he was playing his best ball by the end of the season," Starkey said. "I expect big things from him and all of our skill position guys.

"Sam is the most athletic guy on the team, so we have to find ways to get him the ball. "

Leonard and Wilson also have big-play capability.

After both Meigs County and Tyner moved up to Class 3A, Marion was moved into a new region, where it will compete against Cannon County, Cascade, Fayetteville and Forrest.

Three of Marion's losses last year came by a combined 14 points, including two against region foes, and Starkey said he believes last year's frustration will serve as motivation for a redemptive run.

"We're motivated, for sure," Starkey said. "Last year was the most losses our junior class has ever experienced, so that will make them play with a chip on their shoulder.

"As a team, we were all frustrated, but if we can start the season playing as well as we ended last year, we'll be good. We feel confident we can compete with anybody."

Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected].