MARION — In what turned out to be a bizarre game in many ways, Kokomo’s football team found itself on the wrong end of a 45-6 final score at Marion’s Dick Lootens Stadium on Friday night, falling to 0-3 on the season while dropping its North Central Conference opener to the Class 4A No. 6-ranked Giants.

A bevy of 17 penalties led to a 97-minute first half that also saw host Marion (1-1, 1-0 NCC) leading 5-0 early as the Giants followed up an early safety after Kokomo was whistled for intentional grounding in its own end zone with a 24-yard field goal less than five minutes into the game.

In all, the lengthy first half saw both squads struggle to gain momentum through all the stoppages, especially the visiting Kats, who tallied just 58 offensive yards through the first two quarters compared to 93 yards in penalties.

“Trying to get all of those different pieces and parts working and trying to bring continuity to the team with a new offense, it was a struggle [Friday],” Kokomo coach Richard Benberry said, adding that the snowballing penalties certainly didn’t help.

“It’s hard to recover from that. But you’ve got to make sure you don’t let someone else beat you. And if you play mistake-free football you won’t have to worry about that. We didn’t play mistake-free football, hence the 13 penalties we received.”

Eleven of those penalties came in the first half for the Kats, while the Giants racked up 64 yards worth of flags on six penalties. Five more flags were waved off in the first half. For the game, which went to a running clock late in the third quarter after Marion took a 38-0 lead, the teams combined for 20 penalties totaling 182 yards with the Kats being whistled for 113 of those yards.

Marion added a first-quarter touchdown on an 11-yard pass from J.K. Thomas to Braxstin Delgado to go up 12-0 on the way to a 19-0 halftime lead.

In addition to his touchdown toss, Thomas hauled in a 38-yard TD pass from Keshaun Taylor to put the Giants up 32-0 as Marion scored three times in the third quarter and added an 81-yard kickoff return to paydirt late in the game to account for the final score.

Kokomo finally found the scoreboard late in the game when Torian Smith broke free for a 20-yard TD run with 6:27 remaining. Smith finished with 62 yards on 12 carries to lead a Kat offense that mustered just 156 total yards, 97 on the ground and 59 through the air. By comparison, the Giants amassed 310 total yards including 224 in the ground game.

Despite the lopsided loss, Benberry gleaned positives from the game that he hopes will translate to success.

“I would say our defense actually did well,” Benberry said. “We kept them on the field way too long and we will fix that for sure. Defense played fast and they got to the ball. I was impressed with them.

“Overall, I can’t fault the guys,” Benberry added. “They stepped up and played hard. I can’t be mad at them.”

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