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Saturday, September 26th, 2009
By Randy Bruns
Defense leads way for Redskins
ST. HENRY - The St. Henry Redskins made a pair of crucial defensive stops at the end of both halves to hang on to a hard-won 10-7 Midwest Athletic Conference victory over the Marion Local Flyers.
The Redskins improve to 5-0 on the year and 3-0 in league play, while the Flyers fall to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in conference action.
The first big stand by the Redskins' defense was the biggest, as it totally changed the complexion of the game. With the score knotted at seven apiece, the Flyers started at their own 22-yard line and methodically moved the ball downfield. Sticking to the run, the visitors gobbled yards bit by bit before quarterback Ryan Mescher recovered his own fumble and turned a broken play into a 30-yard gainer to the Redskin 34. Five more runs gained a pair of first downs and brought the ball to the four-yard line, but a holding penalty set the Flyers back.
Niles Keller quickly made up the loss with a 12-yard run to the two, but the junior was stopped just short of the goal line on third down, and the Flyers called a timeout with just two ticks left on the clock before halftime. Something went off kilter on the final play, as Mescher and Keller couldn't connect on the handoff and the quarterback was tackled at the one to keep the score tied at the half.
"That was the ballgame down there when you look at it now," said St. Henry coach Jeff Starkey of his team's goal line stand. "If they go into halftime with the lead, that's a lot of momentum for them in the second half. It was a great stand by our kids."
The second big defensive effort wasn't as dramatic, but it saved the win for the hosts. Marion was trailing 10-7 when it got its final shot with three and a half minutes remaining in the game, and a 19-yard completion to Jared Prenger brought the visitors' crowd to its feet. Keller then ran twice for a first down in St. Henry territory, but after a pair of incompletions and a short run, the visitors were faced with a fourth-and-six situation. Keller took a sweep pitch and had a running lane, but it quickly closed as Bryce Hoyng stopped him two yards short of the first down to effectively seal the deal.
Almost all of the offensive action took place in the first quarter. The Redskins caught a break after having to punt on the game's opening possession, as the Flyer returner coughed up the ball to give the hosts another shot. Quarterback Brad Stahl quickly took advantage by hitting Tyler Bruns for a 34-yard strike down to the Flyers' 10-yard line, and two carries by Neil Schwieterman put the first points on the board for the Redskins.
The Flyers responded in a hurry, as Mescher converted a pair of third-and-longs with completions to Adam Schulze and Austin Berning that brought the ball deep into Redskin territory. Keller later barged in from six yards out to tie the score, and it looked like a shootout was in the works.
But it wasn't to be, as both defenses would bend but never quite break.
The Redskins finally made a deep foray into Flyer territory late in the third quarter. A 14-yard strike from Stahl to Victor Fortkamp brought the ball down to the 27, and then Schwieterman dashed for 16 more yards to the 13. Things bogged down from there, but Jon Speck came on to boot a 25-yard field goal that proved to be the decisive points.
"Our kids did everything we asked them to," commented a crestfallen Marion coach Tim Goodwin. "We worked hard on the fundamentals this week, and we really improved after the way we played last week. I told the kids that if we can keep doing that, we can do some things. I'm sad for our kids, because I thought we deserved to win. It's just disappointing when you make a couple calls as a coach and they go against you - it just hurts."
For his part, Starkey was elated to emerge with the victory after dodging plenty of bullets throughout the game.
"We did just enough tonight," said Starkey. "That was a real physical football game against a hard-nosed, physical, tough football team. It was one of those weeks of practice where we weren't quite sure who we were going to have (available) tonight, but we had enough to get it done."
It's out of the frying pan and into the fire for both squads next week, as Marion will host the 5-0 St. John's Blue Jays while St. Henry will travel to Shelby County to take on the 4-1 Anna Rockets.
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