Saturday, November 17th, 2007
By Randy Bruns
Another shutout by Marion defense
TROY - They say that defense wins championships, and if it's true, the Marion Local Flyers appear to be in pretty good shape.
The Flyers won their sixth regional title in nine years Friday night by blanking the West Jefferson Roughriders 24-0 behind an unyielding defensive effort.
Marion advances to the state semifinals next Friday, where it will play 12-1 Patrick Henry with the game likely to be held at Findlay's Donnell Stadium.
While the Flyer offense wasn't exactly hitting on all cylinders, the Blue and Gold defense was running like a finely-tuned machine on this night. The Roughriders came into the game averaging 37 points per contest, but they were stymied by terrible field position and could never mount a serious scoring threat.
"We had some problems offensively putting first downs together and they won the field-position battle all night," said West Jefferson coach Shawn Buescher. "They've been able to do that the entire year and we were hoping to flip that, but every time we got a little bit of a drive going, we either had a penalty or we turned the football over."
The Flyers normally start the game by kicking off, but the Roughriders won the toss and chose to defer in order to gain the field position advantage. That strategy quickly went awry, though, as Ben Smith returned the opening kick 51 yards up the sideline to give the Flyers a great start at the Roughrider 34. Seven plays later, Smith finished what he started when he snagged a screen pass from Chris Stucke and raced untouched into the end zone to put his team up 7-0.
The rest of the half was a series of fits and starts, as the Marion defense gave West Jefferson fits that resulted in excellent starting position for the Flyer offense. Even with that advantage, though, the Flyers could not cash in, as they started in Roughrider territory on three of their next six drives but had to punt each time.
The Flyers got one last shot at the end of the half, and they struck quickly. Jason Wolters turned in a nifty punt return that ended with a late-hit penalty on the Roughriders, and the Flyers were in business at the West Jefferson 18. Stucke found Marcus Moeller for an 11-yard gain with three seconds on the clock, and after a timeout, Dan Fortkamp came on to boot a 25-yard field goal as time expired to make the score 10-0.
"That was a nice boost going into the half," said Marion coach Tim Goodwin of his team's late score. "The way the game was going, that second score was huge. That penalty really changed the whole momentum at halftime and into the second half."
Marion gave itself some breathing room midway through the third quarter, as it finally broke the big one that had eluded the Flyers to that point. Facing a third-and-eight from the West Jefferson 40, Stucke dropped back and flung the ball down the sideline, and Wolters made a leaping catch and ran to paydirt to put the dagger into the Roughriders.
Ben Schaefer tacked on a two-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Flyer defense put a capper on things by stopping the Roughriders on downs after they had gotten down to the Flyers' 24-yard line.
"They played alright," deadpanned Goodwin after the game while talking about his defense. "They played lights out again this week. I'd like to say that we have some secrets to our defense, but the reality is that we just have some good fast players that fly around."
West Jefferson's coach was of the same opinion.
"They're a very aggressive defense," said Buescher. "We knew they line right up and play man-to-man because they're somewhat athletic on the outside. They blitz and they feel very comfortable in doing that. It comes down to where they've been a great defense all year long and they continued to do that tonight."
Marion will now set its sight on the Patrick Henry Patriots as it will attempt to qualify for their fifth state finals appearance in school history. Goodwin doesn't claim to know much about the Patriots yet, but he knows it'll be well worth it to study their tendencies.
"They have tradition and they've been here before," said Goodwin. "We spend a lot of time trying to familiarize ourselves with our opponents as much as possible. The whole key to the playoffs is how fast you can get to know a new opponent and know what they want to do. Our kids take it pretty seriously, and we'll get to know (Patrick Henry) pretty quickly, I'd guess."
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