One moved up, the other moved down. After this weekend though, neither will move on. Maria Stein Marion Local, the Division VI state champion last season, tangles with Youngstown Ursuline at 11 a.m. Friday in the Division V state championship game at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Ursuline was in Division IV last season.
The meeting is the first of two state finals pairings pitting the Midwest Athletic Conference versus the Steel Valley Conference.
One moved up, the other moved down. After this weekend though, neither will move on.
Maria Stein Marion Local, the Division VI state champion last season, tangles with Youngstown Ursuline at 11 a.m. Friday in the Division V state championship game at Massillon’s Paul Brown Stadium. Ursuline was in Division IV last season.
“As soon as we found out last spring that we were going from VI to V it kind of rejuvenated our whole program as far as a new challenge,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said. “We’d won three titles in seven years in D-VI and this was a great time for us to move up. We had some veterans back and a nice team returning. It sparked us and gave us something else to shoot for.”
So far the Flyers have blown by the opposition. Marion averages 41.6 points per game and allows just 6.4.
Ursuline, which averages 32.2 points per game and allows 12, finds itself in the state title game after unexpectedly dropping down a division this season. The move meant no more Cardinal Mooney come playoff time.
“We have a great rivalry with (Mooney) and great respect for them but we were not happy to get away from them,” Ursuline coach Dan Reardon said. “We set a goal of a state championship back in early spring and at that point and time we had no idea of what division we were going to be in. We thought we were going to be in D-IV. We have never been relieved to be in D-V, that wasn’t part of the process. We play who we play.”
HIGH-OCTANE: Marion Local is one of four teams in the state finals that averages 40 points or better and the Flyers post points through a variety of options.
Senior quarterback Chris Stucke, a three-year starter with 35 career wins, headlines the attack. Stucke has completed 101-of-188 attempts for 1,623 yards and 20 TDs. He’s thrown eight interceptions.
“He’s a veteran kid who we rely on a lot,” Goodwin said. “He keeps us calm and puts us in the right place. We’re going to count on him to be our leader.”
Said Reardon: “I think he’s outstanding. He’s athletic and he’s dangerous because if you get a good rush on him he has the ability to make you miss and hit a receiver downfield. He’s a dangerous, dangerous player.”
Stucke’s favorite targets are Jason Wolters (33 receptions, 655 yards, 7 TDs) and Alex Moeller (32 receptions, 465 yards, 5 TDs).
On the ground, senior Ben Schaefer is the workhorse. Schaefer, who subbed in during last year’s D-VI title game and rushed for 102 yards, has 1,327 yards and 28 TDs on 219 carries this season.
The Flyers run a Pro-I.
“We are going to run the tailback,” Goodwin said. “Schaefer will get the majority of the carries but we hope to spread ball around passing to some different guys. We’re just balanced.”
Said Reardon: “Their offense is not real flashy but they score a lot of points and they do it the old-fashioned way. They run right at you and challenge you. They are very fundamentally sound and don’t make mistakes. Those types of team’s are dangerous.”
NOT TO BE OUTDONE: Ursuline executes its own brand of balance on offense.
“I think balance is incorporating a lot of people into your offense and we’ve done that,” Reardon said. “I don’t think balance necessarily means you run and throw the ball an equal amount. Balance means that you use all of your skill positions and we make an effort to do that. We force defenses to defend every position on the field and that’s something we hang our hat on.”
It’s no secret Ursuline’s main attack is running the football. The Irish have churned out over 3,400 yards on the ground this season and average 250 yards per game.
Junior standout Darrell Mason leads the team with 1,100 rushing yards despite missing some games midseason with an injury. In Mason’s absence, sophomore Allen Jones entered the line-up and has since split time. Jones has over 800 yards.
Senior QB Lamar McQueen, the Northeast District player of the year, is also a threat. McQueen has rushed for 948 yards on 143 carries and has also thrown for 1,264 yards and 10 TDs.
When McQueen does throw it, his favorite target is junior Dale Peterman (31 receptions, 440 yards, 3 TDs).
“They want to run the ball. No doubt about it and they have threats,” Goodwin said. “Mason is a great running back and we’re really impressed with Jones. Their quarterback is a nice running threat too. We’re just going to have to keep fighting. We can’t look at this team and say we’re going to shut them down. What they’ve been doing is wearing people down.”
HARD HEADS: Marion Local’s defense has been a dominant unit all season, allowing a state finals best 6.4 points per game. The Flyers have seven shutouts and have allowed 20 points the last five weeks (with four shutouts). Marion employs a 4-3 style.
Senior linebackers Luke Homan and Greg Koesters headline the hitters.
“I think we just have a good solid defense spearheaded by our two linebackers who have played a ton of football,” Goodwin said. “They’ve been starting since they were sophomores so that’s 42 games they’ve started. That’s a bunch of experience. They make a lot of plays for us and we’ve got good players around them that are athletic and can move.”
Homan has a team-high 130 tackles, 20 TFL and 10 sacks. Koesters has 127 tackles and 16 TFL. Marcus Moeller leads the secondary with seven interceptions.
Said Reardon: “Their two linebackers are outstanding football players.”
NO TACKLING DUMMIES: Ursuline’s defense has been efficient and effective as well. The unit is led by linebacker Nick McGahagan, safety Ross Revella and lineman Jamel Turner. McGahagan has a team-high 125 tackles, while Revella has 83. Both are seniors.
Turner, a sophomore who Reardon described as “an unbelievable player for us as a young kid,” has an eye-opening 22 sacks.
TWO OF A KIND: Marion Local (Midwest Athletic Conference) and Ursuline (Steel Valley Conference) are not the only schools from their respective conference’s to make it to Stark County this weekend. In the Division IV title game, MAC member Coldwater faces off against SVC foe Cardinal Mooney in a rematch of the 2005 championship game.
The MAC is also looking to win two football titles in the same season for the third straight year. Last season St. Henry and Marion won titles, while in 2005, Delphos St. John’s and Coldwater claimed crowns.
“It’s great for the Mahoning Valley and this area,” said Reardon in regards to two teams in the finals. “It’s a testament to the brand of football we play in this area and the MAC has two teams here as well and that’s great for their area too. I know they take a lot of pride in their football and conference just as we do.”
Said Goodwin: “Our league is very close-knit. There are just a lot of good rivalries where everything is kept in proper perspective. We’re going to do everything we can to beat you, but once we’re done we’re going to shake hands and move on and in the postseason support each other. I think it is neat that we have two MAC schools from Mercer County going and two catholic schools from Youngstown.”
KICKING GAME: If the game comes down to kicking, the Flyers may hold the edge. Marion Local kicker Dan Fortkamp is a four-year starter and has hit 69-of-72 PATs this season. He’s also 4-of-6 on field goals with a long of 42 yards. Ursuline’s Michael Metzinger is a viable option as well, having hit 49-of-54 PATs and 6-of-10 field goals (longest 39 yards).
NO COMPARISON: When asked if Ursuline reminded him of any of Marion Local’s opponents this season, Goodwin quickly answered “No.”
“Not really,” Goodwin said. “It seems like most of the teams in our league run a balanced offense like us or more spread. This is by far the biggest and most physical team we’ve gone against. I’m trying to remember in year’s past and I’d say the Delphos St. John’s teams in the 1990s had this size and physical ability.”
SURPRISE PARTY: Marion Local knew it had solid skill players heading into this season but the offensive line had more question marks than returning starters. Those concerns have been answered as seniors Alex Subler, Brian Schulte, Mitch Schwieterman, Lucas Moeller and Tyler Obringer and juniors Austin Pohlman and Alex Kemper have gotten it done. Kemper is a recent fill-in at center for the injured Schwieterman.
“We had a couple good players back from last year,” Goodwin said. “ Alex Subler is a three-year starter and Brian Shulte started last year. Other than that this year has been a pleasant surprise. We had had a great offensive line last year when we won it and we were a smash-mouth power team with a great tailback. We had a lot of question marks this year and what’s made me proud is we’ve had several seniors step up this year as first year starters and play great football.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY: A scan of the Marion Local roster reveals many players with the same last names, including Homan (five), Prenger (four) and Moeller (four).
“You’re going to find our whole team is related,” Goodwin laughed. “There’s a lot of Homan’s in Mercer County.”
None of Marion Local’s Homans are related to current Ohio State linebacker and former Coldwater standout Ross Homan.
MARIA STEIN MARION LOCAL (14-0)
Head Coach: Tim Goodwin
Record at School/Yrs: 101-24/10
Conference: Midwest Athletic
State Playoff Appearances: 10
State Championship Game Appearances: 5
State Titles: 3 (last championship 2006 in D-VI)
All-Time Playoff Record: 30-6
Final ONN/Ohio High Power Poll Ranking: 1st
Points Per Game: 41.6
Opponents Points Per Game: 6.4
2007 Regular Season
@Elida W, 51-0
@Coldwater W, 35-14
St. Henry W, 31-0
@Rockford Parkway W, 35-13
Minster W, 57-0
@Versailles W, 56-13
Fort Recovery W, 42-10
@Delphos St. John’s W, 44-13
Anna W, 35-6
New Bremen W, 40-0
Casstown Miami East W, 37-0
Cincinnati Deer Park W, 53-0
West Jefferson W, 24-0
Patrick Henry W, 42-20
YOUNGSTOWN URSULINE (12-2)
Nickname: Fighting Irish
Head Coach: Dan Reardon
Record at School/Yrs: 27-19/5
Conference: Steel Valley
State Playoff Appearances: 13
State Championship Game Appearances: 2
State Titles: 1 (last championship 2000)
All-Time Playoff Record: 19-11
Final ONN/Ohio High Power Poll Ranking: 8th
Points Per Game: 32.2
Opponents Points Per Game: 12
2007 Regular Season
Cleveland East Technical W, 59-0
East Liverpool W, 56-0
Youngstown Austintown-Fitch W, 21-14
@Massillon Washington L, 14-3
@Chardon W, 35-28
@Warren G. Harding W, 28-13
@Columbus St. Charles W, 43-13
@Lisbon Beaver Local W, 28-0
@Y’gstwn. Cardinal Mooney L, 37-14
@Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary W, 33-30
Bedford St. Peter Chanel W, 43-0
Apple Creek Waynedale W, 29-6
North Lima South Range W, 31-0
Columbus Bishop Ready W, 28-6