Small towns. Bright lights. It was another Midwest Athletic
Conference high-stakes game and host Anna capped a grueling three-game
stretch with a tough loss to Marion Local 27-18 Friday at Booster
Stadium. We were there…
Video by Alex Sator
Story by Tim Langevin
Small towns. Bright lights.
It was another Midwest Athletic Conference high-stakes game and host Anna capped a grueling three-game stretch with a tough loss to Marion Local 27-18 Friday at Booster Stadium.
With the win, the Flyers hold serve with Delphos St. John’s, a 31-7 victor over St. Henry. Both teams are 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the MAC. The two teams collide Week 9 at Marion Local.
The Rockets fall to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in conference play with arguably the toughest schedule through five games. All five opponents made the 2009 playoffs with a combined winning record of 49-17.
“Our last two opponents were the best teams on our schedule. We hate to lose, but I’m happy with the improvement and attitude from last week,” Anna coach Bryan Rioch said. “We played hard. We could have folded the tent, but we got within three late in the game. We scrapped.”
The Rockets mantra this season has been big plays. This night was no exception. The opening play of the game, Dexter Bensman took the handoff and bolted 92 yards into the endzone. Just like that, Anna led 6-0 after blocked extra point. Sound familiar?
On the ensuing possession, Marion Local dialed up an 11-play, 74-yard drive masterfully engineered by QB Ryan Mescher. Niles Keller carried the ball five times for 44 yards and Mescher toted it twice for 12 yards before hitting WR Greg Schwieterman with a dazzling 19-yard TD strike in the corner of the endzone. The Flyers led 7-6 with 7:21 left in the quarter. Sound familiar?
Both coaches rolled the dice on fourth downs early on and the gamble paid off for Flyer coach Tim Goodwin. On fourth and three, Mescher scrambled and found WR Kellen Goettemoeller on a nine-yard TD pass to take a 14-6 lead with 8:06 left in the half. Sound familiar?
It didn’t take long. The first play from scrimmage, QB Jay Meyer threw a perfect spiral to Dexter Bensman, who hauled it in on the run and sprinted 73 yards for the score. The Flyer lead was quickly reduced 14-12 with 7:49 left.
Marion Local threatened to score on another punishing drive of 80 yards with Keller carrying the load, but the Anna defense finally held on a fourth and eight attempt to end the half.
Keller, who gashed the Anna defense last year for over 200 yards, rushed for a modest 86 yards in the first half.
The Anna defense held again to start the third quarter as Marion Local was forced to punt after a three and out. However, the Flyer defense reciprocated with a three and out of their own.
Marion Local started from their 36-yard-line. It was “Keller Time” and the senior responded with six touches for 38 yards. Mescher capped the 12-play grind with a 16-yard TD pass to Schwieterman. The Flyers expanded the lead 21-12 with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
During that 64-yard march, the infamous train behind the visitors section roared past. Call it foreshadow.
Despite the roar of the train or the roar of Keller, Anna wasn’t about to surrender. After a nifty reverse play from Dexter Bensman to Dan Stewart for the touchdown was called back, Anna struck again. This time it counted. Gage Beasecker romped 26 yards for the score to close the gap 21-18 with 9:51 left in the contest.
During that pivotal 53-yard scoring drive, the train roared past, once again. Only at Booster Stadium.
But like most of the game, the Flyers responded with another grinding drive of 73 yards in 15 plays that gobbled up the clock like “Pac-Man”. The key play of the drive and perhaps the game was when Mescher converted on second down and 16 with a 14-yard pass play to Dylan Thobe while in the grasp of defenders. The completion set up a manageable third and two which Keller converted.
During that same drive, Mescher converted another third and long situation with a nine-yard scamper.
Both coaches agreed that Mescher was the difference-maker this night.
Goodwin said, “He’s a competitor. He has taken this team over. He is quite efficient.”
Rioch said, “That QB made the difference. He hurt us on several third down plays. And that plaay he made under duress was the key to the game. We had him sacked.”
Indeed, Mescher was a label of consistency. The senior completed 11-of-18 passes for 145 yards and two TDs.
First-year starting QB Meyer kept the Rockets in it with 8-of-14 passes for 169 yards and one TD.
While both quarterbacks were models of consistency, Bexter Bensman was electricity with a 92-yard TD run and a 73-yard TD reception. He has 11 TDs on the season.
Keller rambled for 165 yards on 29 carries and one TD. Schwieterman caught four Mescher passes for 90 yards and two TDs.
As the train roared, so did the Flyers’ punishing ground attack, amassing 20 first downs to Anna’s six, totaling 384 yards, 239 rushing.
Goodwin concluded, “We have lofty goals. If we get better from here on, I’ll be happy.”
Goodwin is the Dean of MAC coaches and his overall record is 124-26.
Rioch concluded, “I thought if we finished 3-2 or better, we could win the rest of our games.”
Rioch’s resume reads 86-31 with six losses to Marion Local and five to Coldwater. Such is life in the mighty MAC. Regardless, the schedule gets softer and the Rockets should finish 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the MAC, good enough for a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, Marion Local’s schedule gets tougher with games against St. Henry, Coldwater, and the “big gorilla” Delphos.
Anna travels to New Bremen Friday to snap their rare, two-game losing streak.