By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Marionville is coming off one of its best two-year stretches in program history with the Comets racking up a 23-2 record, a district championship and some incredible team and individual records with the Class of 2022 at the heart of it.
They were the first team since 2015 to win double-digit games and the first group since 2014 to win a district championship, culminating in 2020’s Elite Eight run.
“I can’t say enough good things about that group,” said Marionville head coach Paden Grubbs. “You could see the potential to be good early as freshmen and they worked at it to achieve that. Not just on the football field but were winners on the basketball court and baseball field.”
But don’t feel too bad for Grubbs entering his seventh season. Marionville returns 11 starters including some of the biggest names in the Southwest Conference.
It won’t be a rebuild for the Comets, but a reload, starting with senior quarterback and four-year starter Wil Carlton.
As a junior he passed for 1,762 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding 667 yards and eight scores on the ground. He’s also a standout defensively.
“Having a quarterback like him back is huge; not just because of the experience but Wil is a winner,” said Grubbs. “He is one of the best competitors I have coached. He loves to compete and that competitiveness raises everyone else’s play. We graduated a ton of rushing and receiving yards. We will be young (in experience) at the RB and WR positions. It will be important to have Wil to lean on early until we get everyone up to speed.”
Marionville will also have plenty of talent up front to keep Carlton upright with seniors Kolby Ghan (6-0, 225) and Roberto Mayorga (6-1, 250), as well as junior Dalton Russell (5-9, 260) all back in the mix.
All-SWC senior tight end Blane Young returns, as well as juniors Gage Guerin and Garrett Grimm to give Carlton a crop of athletic targets on the outside.
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Defensively the Comets return several key pieces from a unit that pitched four shutouts last year, allowing just 10 PPG.
Young (4 INTs) and Carlton (35 tackles, INT) are the most experienced guys back in the secondary.
Hugh Eaton (6-0, 180) returns after racking up 90 tackles as a sophomore. He will also become the feature back offensively.
“Hugh led the team in tackles as a first year starter last season and played very good, consistent football all year,” said Grubbs. “He’s a very coachable kid who can play at the line of scrimmage or traditional linebacker position which allows us to move him around.
“Hugh is another kid who has committed himself to the weight room. Hugh needs to be the leader of our defense and I think he is ready for that responsibility.”
Grubbs is also expecting big things from the aforementioned Russell and fellow junior Kanien “Buddha” Klineline on the defensive line.
As sophomores they combined for 82 tackles.
“Dalton played great as a sophomore last season,” said Grubbs. “He had a lot of responsibility starting on both sides of the ball. He did a great job from his nose position on defense, constantly taking on double teams. Very strong kid in the weight room and has added 20 pounds. Dalton has the potential to be special.
“Buddha came on in a big way as a sophomore. He has a great work ethic, very coachable and has a motor. He’s not the biggest defensive lineman but competes his tail off. We expect Buddha to build on top of his sophomore year with the extra weight and strength he’s put on this off-season.”
Junior Garet Stanton is also seen as a player that can compete for reps on the defensive line.
Grubbs is also excited about several newcomers that will see expanded roles.
Juniors Tristan Black and Dante Buckmaster, as well as sophomores Owen Willis, Trayce Silk and Angel Quezada will provide depth on the lines.
Senior Layne Daugherty, Junior Isaac Stimpson and sophomores Braydon Bellah, Jace Vickers and Zach Easter could see time at receiver and defensive back.
Sophomores Aaron Chapman, Uriah Flageolle, Will Crumpley, Dakota Cypret and Bradyn Batchman are in line for linebacker reps.
Freshmen Cash Pomeroy and Bryer Guerin are looking for playing time at a variety of positions.
While many see it as a rebuild from the outside looking in, the Comets know they still have enough to compete for conference and district championships. To Grubbs, it’ll come down to his team’s preparation mentally.
“We have to continue to focus on the little things and the process of getting a little better every day on the field and in the weight room,” said Grubbs. “That includes respecting our opponent, playing/practicing/lifting with great effort, and having courage.”
Marionville will host Diamond, Miller and Lighthouse Christian for a jamboree on Aug. 19. The Comets visit Stockton on Aug. 26 to open the 2022 regular season.