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Saturday, September 20th, 2008
By Randy Bruns
Flyers' defense saves the day
Marion Local stops St. Henry short of end zone on final play
MARIA STEIN - The Marion Local Flyers put together a dominant second half and narrowly avoided disaster in the game's final seconds in stunning the St. Henry Redskins by a score of 17-10 at Booster Stadium.
After scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to finally take the lead, things looked good for the Flyers. Then after stopping the Redskins on a fourth-and-one in their own territory with under two minutes remaining, it looked like the game was over.
That's when things went haywire for the hosts.
After running three plays into the line, the Flyers opted to punt with 21 seconds left on the clock. At least, they would have liked to have punted, but the snap was airmailed over punter Niles Keller's head. Keller eventually fell on the ball but not until it had bounced to the Marion 29-yard line.
Suddenly the Redskins had new life, but just 15 seconds to work with. Quarterback Brad Stahl wasted no time in lofting a pass near the end zone, and Victor Fortkamp made a tremendous catch by snatching the ball from the Flyer defender. However, Fortkamp was ruled down at the one-yard line and with time ticking away, Stahl was forced to down the ball to stop the clock.
It all came down to one play, then, and the Redskins tried an outside run by the speedy Neil Schwieterman. As it had been all game, though, the Flyer defense was up to the task as Marcus Moeller and Adam Schulze stonewalled Schwieterman to end the game and send the Flyer faithful into hysterics.
"I'm not sure who made that last play but it was a heckuva play," commented a relieved Marion coach Tim Goodwin. "They went unbalanced and I thought they had us outflanked. In the chaos out there I didn't think we would get lined up right but somebody made a play. I'm guessing it was Marcus because he's one of the few guys we have that can stop somebody in their tracks."
The wild and woolly finish was not a problem for fans of the Flyers, who saw their squad hold on despite squandering numerous scoring opportunities in the first three quarters.
The Redskins got on the board first after Schwieterman picked off a pass and returned it 30 yards into Flyer territory. The ensuing drive stalled out in the red zone, but Jon Speck came on to boot a 22-yard field goal for the game's first points.
Stahl later put St. Henry on the board again when he found Fortkamp for 38 yards and hit him again three plays later for an 18-yard scoring strike.
The Flyers managed to score late in the first half after Ben Smith rumbled 41 yards down to the Redskin four-yard line. The next three plays netted a negative five yards, though, and the hosts had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Jeff Moeller.
Marion started the second half on a mission, as it put together a 17-play drive that gobbled more than six minutes off the clock. Unfortunately for the hosts, though, they were denied again after Prenger was hit for a loss on fourth down.
The next time the Flyers got the ball, they finally capitalized, as Prenger, who came on in relief at quarterback late in the second quarter, got hot in a hurry. The senior hit on all four of his pass attempts on the drive, with the last one going for a 10-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Moeller to tie the score at 10-apiece.
Meanwhile, the Marion defense was growing stingier as the game wore on, as St. Henry gained just 28 yards in the second half prior to Stahl's final pass late to Fortkamp.
Prenger was perfect again on Marion's go-ahead scoring drive. In between hitting Moeller twice for 35 yards, Prenger scrambled two times for 30 yards before scampering eight yards to paydirt on the decisive score.
The Redskins had another chance before things got wacky, but Stahl was stuffed on a fourth-down sneak that gave the Flyers the ball for their fateful last possession.
It didn't take long for Goodwin to point to Prenger as the difference-maker in the game, as the signal caller also came up big on defense by snaring a pair of interceptions.
"Troy Prenger just made plays for us - that was the huge key," said Goodwin. "But that's our offense. We're not big and strong so we've got to be diverse. We just can't say 'we're going to do this' and then do it like maybe we've done in the past. We're going to have to be balanced this year and that's what Troy gave us tonight."
Prenger credited his teammates for helping provide the key second-half burst.
"Our line gave us great protection tonight," said Prenger. "Unless I decided to run the ball, I hardly got hit all night. It was all due to the protection, because that's where it starts."
Despite the sting of the last-second heartbreak, St. Henry coach Jeff Starkey credited the Flyers for taking it to his squad in the late going.
"They just took control in the second half," said Starkey. "We just couldn't get anything generated on offense and that certainly didn't help our defense because it was on the field way too long. It just comes down to controlling the line of scrimmage and we didn't do a very good job of that."
Neither team will have much chance to recover from this barnburner, as both will face stiff tests next week. St. Henry (4-1 overall, 2-1 in the MAC) will host a fine Anna squad while Marion (4-1, 2-1 MAC) will hit the road to take on the undefeated Delphos St. John's Blue Jays.
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