Columbus Marion-Franklin snuck into the playoffs last year with the No. 8
seed in Region 7, and then proceeded to catch fire and march all the
way to a regional championship. No, they didn’t exactly give eventual state champ Winton Woods
a good game in the state semifinals (losing 69-35) but it was still a
special season. Can they have another?
2009 Record: 11-3
* Players To Watch – RB Paul Harris (6-0, 185, Sr.), WR/CB Jeremy McCoy (6-2, 195, Sr.), WR Nate Spears (6-5, 200, Sr.), TE/OLB Devante Strickland (6-2, 220, Sr.), RB/CB Chad Jones (5-7, 155, Sr.), RB Amir Robinson (5-10, 190, Sr.), ILB Julian Blakey (5-10, 220, Sr.), DE Rashawn Thorpe (6-1, 215, Sr.), DE Devante Taylor (6-3, 200, Sr.)
* Outlook – Columbus Marion-Franklin snuck into the playoffs last year with the No. 8 seed in Region 7, and then proceeded to catch fire and march all the way to the regional championship. The Red Devils beat top-seeded Louisville on the road (14-7), took down fourth-seeded Olentangy Orange (36-25) and then defeated Columbus Brookhaven (31-24). No, they didn’t exactly give eventual state champ Cincinnati Winton Woods a good game in the state semifinals (losing 69-35) but it was still a special season.
This year, Marion-Franklin must do without its star player from last year – QB/S Verlon Reed who now plays for Ohio State. However, there is still an abundance of talent for head coach Brian Haffele.
Harris is ranked as the No. 9 RB in the state by Ohio High/Scouting Ohio and has blazing speed (4.35 in the 40). McCoy is ranked as the No. 17 WR in the state. Spears is ranked as the No. 22 WR in the state. Strickland – who had 4.58 speed – is ranked as one of the top 20 tight ends in the state and as one of the top 20 outside linebackers.
The Red Devils are still not sure who their starting quarterback will be. Strickland can play there in a pinch, but Haffele would rather have one guy and stick with him.
“That is what summer camp is about,” he said. “It’s probably between two kids: Cameron Harris (6-1, 175, Sr.) who played wide receiver for us last year, and Corey Benson (5-10, 190, So.) who was our JV quarterback last year.”
As for the strength of the team this year, Haffele says: “We use a three-running back system and we feel good about all those guys. Also, the core of our defense is back. We have eight starters back on that side of the ball.
“Obviously we lose Verlon, but we also lose four offensive lineman. So, we have a lot of work ahead of us to replace those guys, but that’s what practice is for. I thought we had the best player in the state last year in Verlon.”
Yes, a season like 2009 will not be soon forgotten at Marion-Franklin, but the Red Devils would like to go even further this year.
“Last season was thrilling,” Haffele said. “Everyone was disappointed how we performed in week 14 – we kind of ran into a buzz-saw in Winton Woods. It was a really good ride and the kids really bought in and gelled together and played well. Our offense was very high potent and our D was young and they started to come together at the end of last year.
“And now that our kids have tasted winning in the playoffs, they want to go all the way to week 15 this time. I always leave it up to the seniors and that’s the goal they have set this season.”
* Schedule – As usual, the huge opener with Brookhaven looms. Think the Bearcats are still stinging from last year’s regional final? After that, a road game at Ashland in Week 3 catches the eye. In Week 8, a road game at Eastmoor awaits. Four home games in the final five is nice.
8/27 @ BROOKHAVEN (COLUMBUS)
9/3 DUBLIN SCIOTO
9/10 @ ASHLAND
9/17 @ INDEPENDENCE (COLUMBUS)
9/24 @ WALNUT RIDGE (COLUMBUS)
10/1 AFRICENTRIC EARLY COLLEGE (COLUMBUS)
10/8 WEST (COLUMBUS)
10/15 @ EASTMOOR ACADEMY (COLUMBUS)
10/22 BRIGGS (COLUMBUS)
10/29 SOUTH (COLUMBUS)