Thursday, November 16th, 2006
Flyers will be challenged by Indians
By Gary R. Rasberry
A lot of things have changed since the preseason when Marion Local and Mechanicsburg faced off in a scrimmage in Maria Stein.
Friday's meeting at Troy Memorial Stadium will be a little more important than that scrimmage as a Division VI Regional championship is on the line when the 10-2 Flyers and 11-1 Indians meet up.
It will be the fifth time that the teams will meet in football. The Flyers have won all four previous meetings, but this year the Indians appear to have a team with enough size and talent to challenge Marion Local.
Both teams are on hot streaks. The Flyers have won nine straight after starting the season 1-2 (Losses to Coldwater and St. Henry).
"Obviously, we know they're physical," said Marion coach Tim Goodwin. "That was a very even battle up front (at the scrimmage). "That hasn't happened to us a lot this year. Usually, we have the advantage - obviously in our two losses, we haven't. They're going to be right there with us in the trenches. That's going to present a challenge in itself.
"Both teams have changed since the preseason. They changed quarterbacks since then, so they're running things a little differently. The first quarterback was a running threat while the new quarterback has a nice throw. Our kids know they're in for a battle."
The Indians provide a number of coaching concerns for the Flyers. On offense, Mechanicsburg averages 239 pounds on the offensive line, led by Southwest District first-teamer Adam Salyers (6-6, 260 pounds) at right tackle and 6-2, 285-pound junior Austin Adkins at left tackle.
Mechanicsburg will work to run the ball. Southwest first-teamer David Webb is the tailback in the Indians' offensive set, rushing for 874 yards and 18 touchdowns this season while fullback Joel Good adds 793 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"They don't run a lot of plays and are good at what they do," said Goodwin. "They have a lot of good running backs. They don't have one kid you can look and say you have to stop him. They rotate people through there. Lot of times, they run a one-back shotgun. It doesn't really matter who they put back there."
Sophomore quarterback Andy Huffman has been solid since taking over the signal-calling chores, completing 63 percent (107-of-171) of his passes this season with 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Freshman split end Joe Webb has been impressive this season, making 34 catches for 623 yards and five touchdowns. Tight end Zack Ziegler adds 199 yards on 13 catches and a touchdown.
Defensively may be the biggest concern Goodwin will have to deal with as the Indians have pitched seven shutouts, including four straight during the season and two more in the playoffs. The most points given up came against Fairbanks in Week Three in a 48-20 win.
Pacing the defense is Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Wilhem. The 6-2, 220-pound defensive end has 55 tackles and 11 sacks on the season. Salyers lines up at a tackle spot on defense and adds six sacks to the mix.
Linebacker Ethan Price (5-8, 165, sophomore) leads the team in tackles with 91 while Webb has eight interceptions on the season.
"They're physical up front," said Goodwin. "They're a base defense. They'll line up pretty much the same way (every play). They're not going to take many chances. They just contain you. They're good up front. We're going to have to establish a running game. That's going to be a struggle."
The running game of the Flyers has exploded the last six games of the regular season and in the playoffs and senior tailback Marc Otte has blossomed into one of the top backs in the area. After rushing 29 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games, Otte picked up the pace. In the last nine games, the 5-9 first-team All-MAC selection has rushed for 1,518 yards and scored 23 rushing touchdowns.
"Every team goes through a phase where you have to discover the hard way what you do well and what you can't," said Goodwin. "We knew Marc was going to be a good running back and he's turned into a great running back. He'll be the first to tell you is that he has a great line in front of him.
"What kind of separates this line from others is how smart they are," said Goodwin, himself a former lineman at Allen East and the University of Findlay. "They're just smart kids. They have the ability to go with it and play well together."