The Midwest Athletic Conference took the first of two meetings with the Steel Valley Conference this weekend as Marion Local defeated Youngstown Ursuline 20-14 in the Division V state final at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Friday. The Flyers, who won the D-VI state title last season, earned their fourth championship overall. As usual, defense propelled Marion past the Irish.
MASSILLON – None of the four Marion Local football players at the postgame press conference Friday – seniors Chris Stucke, Greg Koesters, Ben Schaefer and Luke Homan – said anything when questioned about being slighted on this week's AP All-Ohio Division V football team.
The quartet is part of a defense, that despite allowing just 6.4 points per game and recording seven shutouts, landed not a single individual on the first or second all-state team.
Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin was not so shy.
“I want to talk about that,” Goodwin said. “We don't make a big deal out of it, but it does get irritating after a while when we've have all this success in the postseason. We went against three all-state running backs (Miami East's Sam Smallwood, Deer Park's Ben Rascona and Patrick Henry's Drew Kuesel) prior to today and you add up all their yards and they didn't have 100 yards total. It's just gets frustrating after a while. It really does.”
Friday the Flyers took that frustration out on Youngstown Ursuline in the Division V state football championship at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Behind its suffocating defense, which turned in two scores (punt return and interception), the Flyers won their second straight state title with a 20-14 victory. Last year Marion captured the Division VI title.
The championship was also Marion's fourth overall, making the Flyers the 10th school in state history to have a quartet or more of titles.
“That's the way we've been playing defense all year,” Goodwin said. “If you're a Marion fan that looked similar. We have quick, aggressive kids up front and we're not afraid to send our linebackers. And these two linebackers (Homan and Koesters) are the best two pair of linebackers and the best blitzing linebackers I've ever had.”
“Defensively they blitz almost every single play,” Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon said. “I don't know if I've ever coached against a team that blitzes that much. It's hard to sustain drives against a defense with that mentality.”
As it has all season, Marion's defense decided the outcome.
Ursuline opened the game with a 15-play drive that erased seven minutes and 35 seconds from the scoreboard but put no points on it. Despite converting two fourth downs on the drive, including a fake punt, the Irish were finally forced to punt.
Ursuline did get on the board first, though, when senior quarterback Lamar McQueen, the D-V state offensive player of the year, hooked up with junior Dale Peterman for a divisional record 76-yard touchdown pass with 11:09 to go in the first half.
On its next possession, the Irish were forced to punt from their own end zone and Koesters blocked the kick. Dustin Heitkamp recovered for the score.
Marion senior quarterback Chris Stucke hit Alex Moeller for a 22-yard touchdown with 1:14 to go in the half to give the Flyers a 14-7 lead at the break.
After a scoreless third quarter, Irish senior Justin Brown made back-to-back momentum swings. The defensive end stripped Homan of the ball on first and ten on the Marion 49 yard line and raced 51 yards for the tieing score. On the Flyers next possession, Brown blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt.
“That was huge,” Reardon said. “That was a critical time in the ball game and he came up with the big play.”
The Marion defense delivered the final firework however with 5:36 left. Facing third and nine on the 29 yard line, McQueen tried to lob a screen pass over Flyers defender Luke Bertke. Bertke snagged the ball and raced 18 yards for the touchdown. The etxra point was no good.
Ursuline had one more crack, but back-to-back Bertke sacks set up fourth and 24 at the 5. McQueen's final pass fell incomplete.
Offensively the Flyers had 218 total yards. Stucke and Schaefer each rushed for 70 yards, while Stucke added 76 through the air. Moeller caught three passes for 54 yards and a TD. The offensive line also held Ursuline sophomore Jamel Turner without a sack for the first time this year. He had 22 coming in.
Defensively, Marion held the Irish to 98 yards rushing, well below their 250 average. The Flyers also limited junior standout Darrell Mason to 11 yards on 12 carries. All told Ursuline had 199 yards with 76 coming on McQueen's TD toss to Peterman. The Irish averaged 2.4 yards on their other 54 plays from scrimmage.
McQueen finished with a team-high 69 yards on 18 carries, and completed 3-of-16 passes for 101 yards, two interceptions and a TD.
“They are a big play defense” said Reardon, whose team faced Massillon Washington, Warren Harding, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney this season. “That's their philosophy, that's their mentality and they do a very good job of it.
“They are right up there (with the best we've faced). We've lost three games (Washington, Mooney and Marion) and all three had great defenses. Shoot they're state champs. Their defense is good.”
Said Goodwin: “If we're going to leave it up to one phase of our team, we might as well leave it up to our defense.”
MAC-NIFICENT: The Midwest Athletic Conference has owned small school football in Ohio over the past decade. Since 1998, the MAC has sent two teams to the state finals a staggering eight times and has an 11-5 record in those state finals counting Marion's win. Only in 2002 did the conference fail to send one team to state.
Since 1994, the MAC is 14-6 in state title games, having sent at least one team 14 of 15 years.
TOP 10: With the win, the Flyers became just the 10th school in state history to win four or more state titles and just the third public school to do so. The Flyers also became the fourth MAC school to make the list.
Cleveland St. Ignatius leads with nine titles, while Cincinnati Moeller and Newark Catholic each have seven. Cleveland Benedictine, St, Henry, Versailles and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (six) and Akron SVSM and Delphos St. John's (four) round out the list.
PUNT BLOCK: Koesters punt block was the wake up call Marion needed. Especially after exhausting an 11-play drive that stalled on the Ursuline 5 yard line.
“We were down seven nothing at that point and they had hit that big pass play and we're starting to wonder on our sideline maybe we're outguned or something,” Goodwin said. ” I think that got us in the right frame of mind.”
“I saw him fumble it and I knew it was go time,” Koesters said.
RUMBLIN BUMBLIN: Getting votes for big play honors was Brown's 51-yard fumble recovery for a TD. The 6-3, 257 pound end stripped the ball, caught it in mid-air, shed a tackle attempt by Stucke and raced down the right sideline to the end zone.
“We tried to be as positive as possible after we said 'Holy Cow, what a great play by that kid,'” Goodwin said. “He stripped the ball from Luke and then ran right over Chris. It was like Superman out there doing that.”
The fumble was Homan's only one of the year.
“Justin's had an outstanding year for us this year,” Reardon said. “He's had an outstanding career. He's a very good football player.”
DIFFERENT ROLE: Last year Schaefer came off the bench for the injured Marc Otte in the D-VI final and rushed for 102 yards on 22 carries in a 17-0 win over Shadyside. This year Schaefer entered as the starter and with 1,327 yards.
“I think Ben Schaefer ran as hard as he has all year today,” Goodwin said. “He really ran hard.”
“It's the last game,” Schaefer said. “You just try your best and hope everything falls in place.”
DIFFERENT ROLE II: Although undefeated, Marion Local was considered by many as an underdog in the game considering Ursuline had played a schedule littered with much larger teams.
“It's funny cause last year coming in we had two losses in the regular season but we were the favorites,” Stucke said. “This year we come in undefeated and a lot of people considered us the underdog because of Ursuline's schedule. It was weird coming in as the underdog for only the second time this year in addition to the Coldwater game.”
PLAYOFF TESTED: Marion's senior class has played 42 games in three years.
“There's just not many high school kids who have that much experience,” Goodwin said. “They've seen everything. You're not going to trick them.”
STUCKE SITUATION: Stucke earned second team All-Ohio honors as a quarterback and made a pitch for first team Friday. Despite throwing an interception, Stucke was 6-of-16 for 76 yards and a TD and also tied for team honors with 70 yards rushing.
“He's a great football player,” Reardon said. “You look at his throws all day long and they were right on the money. I don't think he threw a bad ball all game. With his feet he's a slippery elusive runner. He finds a way to get a couple extra yards.”
“He saw a gap and he took it every time he saw it,” Ursuline senior defensive back Ross Revella said. “His offensive line blocked well and he took advantage of it.”
STOMACH PAINS: Revella, a first team All-Ohio defensive back, didn't reveal his nerves on the field although he thought about it – time and again.
“Last time we were in a game like this was last year against Mooney and we ended up on the bottom of that one to,” Revella said. “My stomach was churning the entire game. I thought I was going to throw up before the game, at halftime and in the fourth quarter.”
TALL ORDER: When asked to name differences between the Marion defense he saw Friday as opposed to the one he watched on film all week, Reardon responded with an unlikely observation.
“They were much taller than I expected them to be and I know that sounds crazy,” Reardon said. “I don't know if they round down when they height and weight their guys but they were one of the tallest football teams we played this year. They didn't have 300 pound guys, but when you have a 5-8 quarterback (McQueen) and you're forced to throw the ball that makes a difference.”
TWICE AS NICE: Marion's state title was the second for the school this fall. The volleyball team won the D-IV state championship three weeks ago.