Marceline's championship aspirations came skidding to a halt on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers travelled to Lincoln for the Class 1 semifinal, and on a 65-degree, high-sky afternoon, fell 46-20.
Lincoln set the tone early on Saturday, electing to receive the opening kickoff. The Cardinals drove the length of the field and used over eight minutes of game clock before quarterback Jackson Beaman mashed it in from two yards out.
"We chose to receive the ball, and we needed a long drive like that to take them out of their game," Lincoln coach Kevin LaFavor said. "They're a physical team, and we knew we'd have to grind them down to put ourselves in the kind of position we found ourselves in today.
"We stopped them from having that big play to flip the field, and our guys played phenomenally."
After two Marceline three-and-outs and a Lincoln punt, the Cardinals increased their lead to 11-0 with six minutes remaining in the second quarter.
After yet another three-and-out, Marceline received a gift when Lincoln punt returner Bo Kroenke made a poor decision on a rolling punt and booted it. Marceline took over at the Lincoln 15.
Sophomore Wyatt Molloy's nine-yard touchdown rush on an end-around a few plays later was one of a slim number of chunk plays for the Tigers. Until Lincoln made a mass substitution with just a few minutes remaining in the game, Marceline had just two first downs.
The Cardinals entered the halftime break with an 18-6 lead after a huge backbreaker for Marceline in the final minute. With a third and 26 situation, Beaman extended the play and played cat-and-mouse in the backfield before finding Kroenke for a 56-yard touchdown. Only 45 seconds remained in the half.
"We were a few missed tackles away from being tied at halftime," Marceline coach Mark Ross said. "They have a lot of firepower, and for the most part, we did a pretty good job of not allowing huge plays. Unfortunately, the offense couldn't hold the ball long enough to wear them down."
Lincoln scored on its first four possessions of the second half to take a 46-6 lead. Meanwhile, Marceline was going nowhere but backwards offensively.
With 2:16 remaining, after Marceline quarterback Jacob Stallo entered the game for senior Alex McCauslin, the sophomore rushed for a six-yard touchdown.
On the final play from scrimmage, in fitting fashion, senior Cullen Bruner added a touchdown to enhance his remarkable season and illustrious career.
Although the Tigers have had to use their speed up front all season to make up for being undersized, Lincoln was comparatively massive in the trenches. The Cardinals roster 10 players 200 pounds or greater. Marceline has just four.
"They're impressive up front, and being undersized all year, our guys have had to compete their tails off," Ross said. "It was the same today, just on a bigger scale, so it didn't change our expectation. If our running game gets stuffed, it makes it tough to open our playbook too deep.
"As far as our seniors, we have some guys that you can't replace. It'll be a while until you see a defensive back like McCauslin, a running back like Bruner, or a linebacker like Colby Sims. Even the seniors I didn't mention have poured their heart and soul into this thing."
The Tigers finish their season 12-2, and undefeated Lincoln will face Valle Catholic in the state championship next weekend.