COLDWATER – As he stood outside the locker room behind Cavalier Stadium on Friday, Marion Local quarterback Chris Stucke put the Flyers' 35-14 Midwest Athletic Conference win over Coldwater in perspective.
“This is the greatest feeling ever,” said Stucke after snapping the Cavaliers' streaks of regular season wins (33) and regular season home wins (30).
Even better than that Division VI state title he guided the Flyers to last season?
“Not quite, but it ranks up there,” Stucke backtracked with a smile.
You can't blame Stucke for being excited. Marion wins state more often than it beats Coldwater. Friday's win was Marion's first over Coldwater since 2001. The Flyers have two state titles in that same span, and three since 2000. Friday's effort was just as worthy.
“I think what happens is Coldwater is known for its quick starts. They try to get you back on your heels,” Marion coach Tim Goodwin said of one reason for the Cavs' success at home.
It happened again Friday, but Marion (2-0, 1-0 MAC) regained its balance.
After falling behind 7-0 on Coldwater quarterback Cory Klenke's 1-yard run late in the first quarter, Marion responded with four unanswered touchdowns.
Stucke tied it with 11.9 seconds in the first quarter on his 6-yard roll out. After a Coldwater punt, Stucke hit junior Jason Wolters with a 35-yard TD (14-7). A Stucke interception led to senior Ben Schaefer's 1-yard run (21-7) with 4:30 left before the half. Senior Dan Fortkamp hit all three extra points.
“That's an experienced offensive line and their quarterback is just outstanding,” Coldwater coach John Reed said of Marion's play. “You could tell their will to win was just tremendous.”
It continued in the second half. After another Coldwater three-and-out to start the third quarter, Stucke found senior Tyler Obringer for a 9-yard TD (28-7). Coldwater pulled to 28-14 on sophomore QB Keith Wenning's 13-yard pass to junior Tony Harlamert.
Field position also played a key part. The Flyers started six of their 10 drives at their own 42 or better, including three inside Coldwater territory. The Cavs (1-1, 0-1 MAC) started nine of their 10 drives at their own 24 or worse.
Marion's final TD was its best. The Flyers capped a 14-play, 56-yard drive with Schaefer's 3-yard run. The Flyers picked up four first downs and, more importantly, drained 7:42 seconds off the fourth-quarter clock.
“I think this year the team thought they could do it all along,” Goodwin said of beating Coldwater. “But you're never comfortable in this game.”
That seemed about right for the Cavaliers, too.
Marion's run-stuffing defense held the Cavs to 44 yards on 18 carries. Klenke and Wenning combined to complete 12 of 23 passes for 142 yards. But Stucke and Troy Prenger both ended Cavs' drives with interceptions.
“All the credit goes to their preparation,” Reed said. “We know what it's like to be on the other side of this. But it's been a while.”
Coldwater's last regular-season loss was 12-10 at Versailles on Oct. 10, 2003. Its last home loss was 31-16 against Kenton on Aug. 24, 2001. Coldwater had also won 27 straight MAC games.
“You can't be bitter. You can't be angry,” said Reed. “You just have to give credit where credit is due.”
Both sides of the bleachers recognized that, also. As the clock expired both Marion and Coldwater received standing ovations from its fans.
Schaefer (28 carries for 91 yards) and Stucke (14 carries for 73 yards) accounted for 195 of the Flyers' rushing yards. Stucke also completed 6-of-13 passes for 110 yards and two TDs.
The Flyers get little time to celebrate their win. Marion , which moved up to D-V this season, hosts defending D-V state champ St. Henry on Friday.