Tuscaloosa, Ala.--When Marion County Coach Rusty Funk took over the program three years ago the Red Raiders were coming off a two-win season and the program was down in the dumps. That first year his team won just four games and got beat 66-6 to open the year, but Friday night his team climbed the mountaintop with a 23-12 win over Linden for the Class A state football title.
“This is the ultimate thing for our team,” Funk said. “We have a team. We have four running backs this year over 1,000 yards. These kids are unselfish. They don’t cry.
"We have the ultimate team. It’s just something hard to explain in today’s world how you can get a group of kids together and coach them in the fashion that we don’t worry about how it is in college. It’s not about you, it’s about what we can do.”
Setting a state record for total offense in a single season by a team in Alabama high school history with 6,881 yards, Marion County was led by the play of quarterback Sean Wallace. Earning MVP honors he carried the ball 14 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 44 yards and a touchdown through the air and tacked on five tackles for good measure.
“I just want to give all the credit to the offensive line,” Wallace said. “They are the ones that gave me the edge and opened up the holes for me to get through. I just want to give all the credit to them.”
An offensive powerhouse in 2011, Marion County got on the board first in the Class 1A final Thursday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium behind the strong play of Wallace. A diminutive quarterback, Wallace led an impressive six-play, 79-yard drive for the first score of the game. He capped it off with a 15-yard touchdown strike to Ready Swanigan on the last play of the first quarter to put Marion County up 6-0.
Linden would answer right back thanks to great field position following a 69-yard kickoff return by Marquis Shelton. Setting the offense up at the Marion County seven-yard line, Linden scored one play later as Julian Little raced over for the touchdown to tie the game. The extra-point was no good leaving the score tied just seconds into the second quarter.
Linden's Terris Lewis had 11 tackles on defense
The two teams traded possessions before Marion would take back the lead. Taking over on the Linden 37, Wallace ran for seven yards and later six more to move his team into field goal range for kicker Ben Riggs. Drilling the kick true from 35 yards Riggs gave Marion County the 9-6 advantage.
Again Linden would answer in a hurry as Shelton’s kickoff return of 23 yards to the 45 put the Patriots in business. On the first play quarterback Anthony Robinson raced down the sidelines and sidestepped a tackler before diving into the end zone for the touchdown run. The kick again failed to leave the score 12-9 Linden.
Taking over with 4:53 left in the half on its own 22, Marion County went to work. Fullback Justin Sanderson ran for six yards on first down before a Wallace keeper netted 19.
Two plays later Wallace added a 16-yard gain on the ground and a late hit out of bounds tacked onto the play put the ball at the Linden 17.
Marion County rolled the dice and took the points off the board and it proved to be the right move as a six-yard touchdown by Wallace and the extra point kick made it 16-12 Marion County at the half.
The momentum continued in the second half as Sanderson picked off a pass intended for Linden’s Terris Lewis and returned it to the 30-yard line to put Marion County in very good shape to break the game open.
On second down DeShawn Riebesehl broke a 26-yard run down to the four. Eventually Wallace would sneak over for the touchdown to make it 23-12 Marion County. They would never look back on the way to the win and the first title in 40 years for the school.
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