This time both teams enter the game as defending state champions.
St. Henry and Maria Stein Marion Local are set for their annual clash Friday at Marion Local’s Booster Field.
The two towns are separated by less than eight miles and both belong to the rugged Midwest Athletic Conference, making this a classic backyard rivalry. But if possible, this game holds some added significance this time around.
This time both teams enter the game as defending state champions. St. Henry won the D-V title last season, while Marion Local was D-VI champs. Both are in D-V this season. Both are 2-0.
The host Flyers own wins over Elida (a 51-0 blowout called at halftime) in Week 1 and last week’s dismantling of fellow MAC power Coldwater, 35-14. The win over Coldwater snapped the Cavaliers 33-game regular season win streak, 30-game home win streak and 27-game MAC win streak.
The Redskins own two victories over small school powers and are hoping to make it three. St. Henry beat Marion Pleasant 17-14 in Week 1 and downed Delphos St. Johns 14-7 last week.
For Marion Local and coach Tim Goodwin its biggest hurdle might be the danger of a let down. However, Goodwin is confident that this won’t be a concern.
“The reality for us is that we have to play St. Henry this week,” Goodwin said. “The coaches and the players have moved on, but I think the community is still holding on to the win and why not? It was been awhile since we beat Coldwater.”
Working for Goodwin is the fact he has an experienced team that understands the dangers of losing focus in the MAC.
In the first two weeks Marion has played virtually flawless football, making the task of stopping them difficult.
“We have had one turnover and that was a fumble on fourth down,” Goodwin said.
Focusing on this contest, Goodwin is looking to do what his team does best on offense – execute a balanced attack.
Led by senior quarterback Chris Stucke and all-everything tailback Ben Schaefer, Marion is capable of running and throwing the football effectively.
“It will be important for us to establish the tailback, but we will let Chris make decisions out there for us,” Goodwin said.
The one concern for Goodwin is the physical size of the Redskins, something his team has had problems with in the past.
“St. Henry will be a challenge for us up front,” Goodwin said. “They are the biggest team we have played this year and in the past we have struggled against teams like that.”
As for St. Henry, coach Jeff Starkey knows the challenge his team faces Friday.
“From a coach’s view Marion Local is just an enjoyable team to watch,” Starkey said. “They do a lot of things well. They take care of the football and can convert in any situation.”
St. Henry will be looking to keep the scoring low, something it has done the first two games. With a young offense – sophomores Brad Stahl and Neil Schweiterman start at quarterback and tailback, respectively – the Skins will be relying on defense.
“I thought our offense would be more consistent coming into the year,” Starkey said. “But it hasn’t been and the defense has been carrying us.”
Although it is only the second MAC game of the year, the winner will have the early lead for the conference crown. Both teams still have to play Anna, while a future date with Delphos St. John’s awaits Marion. St. Henry still has to play Coldwater.
Perhaps even more important, both St. Henry and Marion are now both in Region 20, putting even more importance on getting a victory and the computer points.