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Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Flyers run the table on way to second straight state crown

By Gary R. Rasberry

Marion Local players, from left to right, Brian Schulte, 51, Chris Stucke, 13, A. . .

MASSILLON - With two teams known for their offense, it was defense that would seize the day.
Both teams came up with fourth-quarter defensive touchdowns, but it was Luke Bertke's interception of Lamar McQueen with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game that proved to be the game-winner as Marion Local defeated Youngstown Ursuline 20-14 in the Division V state football championship on Friday at Paul Brown Massillon Stadium.
The win allows the Flyers to run the table this season at 15-0 to earn their fourth state title - first in Division V - and it's the second straight title (Marion Local won the Division VI crown last season). Marion Local became the 10th school in state history to win four state titles.
It was a game where defenses dominated. The Marion defense held the Ursuline (12-3) offense, with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, to just 98 rushing yards in the game.
"They wanted to run the ball, we knew that," said Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin. "They're just big. They're used to wearing teams down, a lot of it because their defense is so good.
"If you watched our team through the year, some games we were really clicking on offense. Some games we just dominated on defense. Some games we had big plays. Whatever the situation the game presented itself, one phase of our game would step and do something for us."
Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon was impressed with the Flyers' defense.
"Their defense, it seemed, every single time we would try and get something going on offense, they would come up with a big play," said Reardon. "Whether it was just a no-gain play, lose a yard or an interception, every time we would get something going, they would make a play."
Marion was able to move the ball at times on the ground, getting 142 yards on 38 carries. One of the key moves for the Flyers was keeping Jamel Turner, who entered the game with 22 sacks, away from the ball and the Ursuline star defender had just one assisted tackle in the game.
"We changed our blocking scheme," said Goodwin. "We had our backs keying on him and one scheme where Luke (Homan) went and helped the tackle right away. (Turner) is a good player and has a motor."
After Ursuline jumped out first when McQueen hit Dale Peterman for a 76-yard score in the first quarter - which set a Division V state final record for longest passing play - Marion jumped back with two scores in the second quarter, one coming on a special teams/defense play.
With Ursuline punting from its own seven-yard line, Greg Koesters broke through and blocked the punt. Dustin Heitkamp dove on the ball in the end zone to tie the game after Dan Fortkamp's PAT kick.
"I saw (Ursuline punter John Colla) fumble (the ball), and I knew it was go-time," said Koesters.
Just before halftime, the Flyers offense got on the scoreboard. Marion Local moved the ball 69 yards on six plays, with Stucke finding Alex Moeller for a 22-yard scoring strike through the air with 1:14 left in the half putting Marion Local up 14-7 at intermission.
With a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Flyers were looking to burn time off the clock, but with just under eight minutes left, the Irish came up with their own big defensive play. Ben Schaefer picked up a yard on a first-and-10 from the Flyer 49, but Justin Brown stripped the ball away and snagged it in midair and headed toward the end zone, running over Stucke in the process, tying the game with 7:37 left in the third quarter.
"Obviously, it was huge, it tied the ballgame at the time," said Reardon. "Justin has had an outstanding year for us this year. ... That was a critical time in the ballgame."
It looked like Marion would respond quickly as Ben Smith took the ensuing kickoff 68 yards to the Ursuline 15, but the Flyers' offense could only manage just three yards and Fortkamp came on to try a 29-yard field goal, but David Rossi blocked the kick.
Marion shut down the Irish running game on the ensuing possession, forcing McQueen to pass. When trying to find the safety valve on a screen pass, Bertke leaped into the air for the Flyers and brought down the interception at the 19, then rushed toward the end zone for a score with 5:36 left in the game.
"When you know they're passing the ball, that's the defensive ends favorite time," said Bertke. "I got there as fast as I could and made the play.
"I knew I had to beat one guy (McQueen). I was hoping to hold on to the ball, for one thing," said Bertke about his INT return. "To get to the end zone was just the bonus."
Fortkamp missed the PAT, keeping the Irish with a chance.
The Flyers, however, dashed the chances. The Irish lost four yards on the ensuing drive, then after the Flyers ran another 1:49 off the clock before giving Ursuline the ball back with 2:50 left on the clock. Marion racheted the defense even higher. Bertke sacked McQueen for an eight-yard loss with Luke Homan causing another loss to put the ball at the Irish five-yard line. After McQueen fired an incomplete pass to end the possession, Marion took two straight knees to end the game.
"First of all, give Marion Local credit, they're an outstanding football team," said Reardon. "They're extremely well-coached, we knew that going in. They jumped out at us on the field today."
McQueen finished with 69 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Darrell Mason, who had over 1,100 coming into the game, was held to just 11 yards on 12 carries. Peterman had 3 catches for 101 yards.
Stucke and Ben Schaefer both rushed for 70 yards on the day and Stucke was 6-of-16 passing for 76 yards with an interception to go along with his TD pass.
"Overall, it was pretty even," said Goodwin. "I thought we had the only sustained drive of the game. There's three phases of the game (offense, defense, special teams) and you work on all three of them and hopefully they all come through for you."
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