PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Ben Smith (6-0, 180, sr.), TE/DE Luke Burkey (6-4, 210, sr.), S/WR Marcus Moeller (6-0, 185, sr.), QB/CB Troy Prenger (6-0, 170, sr.), OL Austin Pohlmann (6-2, 220, sr.), WR Jason Wolters (6-2, 165, sr.)
2007 Record: 15-0, State champions
Most people knew the Marion Local Flyers would be pretty good in 2007. But this good?
The Flyers captured their fourth state championship and their first undefeated season in over three decades. Their first fourteen wins were all by 21 points or more, the closest being a one-sided win over Division IV state champion Coldwater. Seven opponents were shut out, including the first three playoff opponents, and the only team to come within a touchdown of the Flyers was state championship game opponent Youngstown Ursuline.
The dominance of Marion Local may have surprised a few people here and there, but head coach Tim Goodwin says that the team knew they had the ingredients of something good.
“We were confident,” Goodwin said. “We had several kids back that had started since they were sophomores – five as a matter of fact, the most I’ve ever had since I’ve been here in nine years. One of them was our quarterback back Chris Stuckey, and when you have your quarterback back for the third year, you feel pretty good about the directions you can go. We had some very athletic juniors and a very good senior class, and everything meshed well together. We started off the year very strong, played just a tremendous game in Week 2 to knock off Coldwater, and really played good football all year long.”
The Flyers had to fight tooth and nail to get the final win of the season, but they were able to overcome an Ursuline team filled with top-notch athletes and college prospects.
“Ursuline was a fine team, and they have excellent athletes there,” Goodwin said. “It was a game that kind of went back and forth. Neither team really took control of the line of scrimmage. Both teams are very similar in what they wanted to do. It was a game of big plays. They had an 80-yard pass play, I think it was. We blocked a punt for a touchdown, they stripped a fumble and returned that for a touchdown, then we intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. We ended up scoring one more time than they did; we had a decent drive and scored not too long before halftime, and that was really kind of the difference. It was kind of a wild, back-and-forth game.”
In the end, Marion Local put together a season that was among the finest in team history and one of the stronger performances in the recent annals of Division V football. Not too shabby for a team that was making their Division V debut.
“Every year’s special, and it’s hard to compare teams, but certainly this team would stand right up there as doing some really remarkable things,” Goodwin said. “This is the first time since 1971 that a Marion Local football team’s gone undefeated, and it was our first year up in Division V after being in Division VI all along. You put those two things together and it was really a special year.”
The Flyers enter 2008 with a new set of core players and a new set of challenges.
“We lost some darn good football players, guys who had played a whole lot of plays for us,” Goodwin said. “It’s going be different. We’re going to have to put kids in there that don’t have the experience that the kids before had. Like I said, this year’s senior class is very athletic. They did some real good things for us last year as juniors, but they were role players last year. There’s a big difference between their role last year and what they have to do this year, so it will be interesting to see what happens. I think that we’ll have good competition in those spots, and as a coach, that’s what you want.”
Despite losing many of last year’s key contributors, Marion Local will have some players to work with on both offense and defense.
“We have four starters back on both sides of the ball, plus numerous others that as the year went on got bit parts here and there,” Goodwin said. “We like to find roles for kids depending on the team we’re playing, and if their strength matches up with what we need, we put them out there. Offensively, we’re going to have some good receivers, we’re going to have some good athletes. We’re going to have a tailback back who really came on strong at the end of the year, Ben Smith (500 yards rushing in 2007). He had a great state finals game as a kick returner, and we’re looking for big things out of him as a running back. We have a couple of offensive linemen back; we’ll have to replace some pretty darn good ones from last year. A big key for us will be what kind of play we can get out of our quarterback. I think we have some good athletes there, but how fast can they learn on the job, so to speak?
“Defensively, we had two very strong, athletic, quick linebackers that played since they were sophomores and played together, Luke Homan and Greg Koesters, and they’re both graduating for us this spring. That’s going to be key for us this year – what kind of athlete we can get out there at linebacker.”
The Flyers will have a difficult schedule as always, although it will involve one more non-conference team than usual.
“It’s different this year,” Goodwin said. “The league decided a couple years ago to go to an unbalanced schedule, so every team in our league will not play one team in our league. We’ll have an extra non-league game in Week 2. For us, it turns out we’re not playing Minster this year, and we picked up Harvest Prep out of Columbus for Week 2 non-league. The rest of the league’s schedule got juggled so we’re playing the other teams at different times. So it will be a new look for our league. Obviously we’re trying to bring more computer points into our league. Last year, we only had two teams make it – those of us fortunate enough not to lose.”
As is often the case, the Flyers and other Midwestern Athletic Conference schools will have to navigate a minefield of tough teams to make the postseason, and there won’t be much room to slip up.
“I don’t see that changing at all,” Goodwin said. “For us, the margin of error is going to be very, very slim, just like it was last year. You’re looking at your schedule, and Coldwater’s got a ton of kids back from last year, and St. Henry and Anna both return very strong squads from last year as well, so we’ve got our work cut out for us to be in position to make to playoffs.”
Everyone will soon find out if Marion Local has enough to make a run at another title, but regardless of the outcome, Goodwin says his team will be ready to go once the season kicks off.
“The kids are working really hard,” Goodwin said. “I would put our kids’ work ethic in the offseason up against anyone. They’re going to be ready. Every team’s different; I don’t know what our top level of play could possibly be, but whatever it is, that’s going to be our goal, just like it is every year. As far as the community goes, the great thing about this area, our league, is everyone’s very similar – the community expects the kids to work hard and do their best. I think they’re really realistic for the most part on wins and losses and you’re not the league champions every year.”
8/29 @ HARVEST PREPARATORY (CANAL WINCHESTER)
9/5 PARKWAY (ROCKFORD)
9/12 @ COLDWATER
9/19 ST HENRY
9/26 @ ST JOHN'S (DELPHOS)
10/3 @ NEW BREMEN
10/17 FORT RECOVERY
10/24 @ ANNA