By GARY R. RASBERRY
CANTON — It appeared that the Marion Local magic
would get the football team to another state title.
But in the end, it was just too much Maag.
Columbus Grove’s Blaine Maag rushed for 287 yards and
three touchdowns as the Bulldogs made the most of their first
trip to the Division VI state finals — after losing in
the state semifinals the previous two seasons — with a
28-26 win over the Flyers at Fawcett Stadium.
The Bulldogs complete a perfect 15-0 season as the Flyers, making
their third trip to state in four seasons, ends with a respectful
11-4 record after nearly becoming the first eighth seed in a
region to win a state title.
“It’s like a freakin’ dream come true,”
said senior quarterback Ben Stechschulte. “We were working
very hard. You never expect to get here. We talked about it
all season long, but it was like in the future, not this season.
That last play, I was like, ‘Wow!’ It’s like
getting hit in the stomach but being happy about it.”
Maag’s yards, just eight short of the state record held
by former St. John’s Chad Schulte, was highlighted by
a game ending-drive that took the final eight minutes and 13
seconds off the clock and denied the Flyers a last chance to
take the lead after trailing by 15 points midway through the
Maag, the Division VI state offensive player of the year, rushed
40 times for his yards. The three scores — tying a state
record held by several players — raised his season total
to 43 rushing touchdowns.
“I told him that if it took him carrying 40 times to win,
he’d carry 40. If we needed 50, he’d carry 50 and
if we needed 90, he’d do that,” said Grove coach
Jerry Cooper. “Blaine’s a great back, but a lot
of the credit goes to the guys on the line. Blaine’s pretty
special. Crunch-time, we decided to let him carry as much as
Marion coach Tim Goodwin had plenty of praise for the junior
“He’s a great running back. No question about it.
He does a great job,” said Goodwin. “The thing he
does that we don’t see a lot is his cutback ability. We
don’t see that as much.
“We just didn’t have an answer for him. We couldn’t
stop him consistently. They just kept going to him. We knew
he would get his yardage, but all week we talked about the big
play and when he popped through we wanted to hold him to 8-10
yards instead of 20-40 yards. That didn’t happen,”
Trailing 21-7 at the half, Marion used the opening drive of
the second half to inform the Bulldogs that they were in for
Flyer quarterback Cory Luebke began to break out after the running
game was hampered by Grove’s eight-man front wall. Luebke
guided an eight-play drive going 62 yards that was capped off
with a 15-yard pass to Andy Schulze that went for paydirt and
cut the lead to eight points after a Bulldogs’ blocked
Grove scored again on its next series, as Maag needed just two
carries to go 70 yards for the touchdown to make the score 28-13.
The Flyers rallied once again as Luebke orchestrated a seven-play
drive lasting 69 yards. Schulze again was Luebke’s target
for a nine-yard score with 6:10 left in the quarter.
The Bulldogs’ next drive faltered thanks to back-to-back
false start and delay of game penalties that turned a third-and-17
into a third-and-22 that Maag could not make up. The Flyers
got excellent position on the punt as Maag could only manage
placing the ball at the Grove 46.
The Flyers tried to run early, but Luebke again went to the
air to get the team to the 10. Moeller added a good run to get
it to the one-yard line where Scott Garman scored his second
touchdown of the day — the first coming on a blocked punt
in the end zone. Giere’s kick was good to cut the once-big
lead down to two points.
“I’m proud of the kids,” said Goodwin. “A
lot of teams would have folded up the tent (down 28-13) but
we came out in the third and scored and came back and scored
again. These kids are fighters.”
The Flyers defense came out strong again as the fourth quarter
got underway. Grove could only reach its 37-yard line and was
forced to punt. Maag booted the ball to the Flyer 34. This time
around, though, the Flyers could not get the game going, losing
one yard overall on the drive and being forced to punt with
8:13 left in the game.
Most times, 8:13 left in the game would be plenty of time to
hold a team and get the ball back for a shot at the win.
Just not this time.
Cooper changed things up in bringing in Brandon Brubaker to
play the other back due to injuries knocking out backs Bobby
Barraza (ankle sprain) and Ryan Keck (concussion). Brubaker
picked up 14 yards on his first two carries to get a first down.
Then Maag got the ball, rushing for 16 on two carries to get
another first down.
The Flyers held tough and forced Grove to go for it on fourth-and-three
from the 29. Maag got the pitch from Stechschulte and looked
to be down short of the marker but sprang forward one extra
yard to move the chains, much to the chagrin and protest of
the Marion faithful. Maag was held to six more yards to set
up another fourth down play.
This time Stechschulte passed the ball to Maag for six yards
and another movement of the chains to set up first down at the
Marion 13. Maag got the team to the two yard line before Cooper
called a timeout.
Rather than let Maag score, which would have broken the state
record for rushing touchdowns in the game, Stechschulte took
a knee three times to let the clock run out and win the game.
“We didn’t want to score for fear of missing the
extra point and giving them the chance to go down and score
to tie the game,” said Cooper. “We were trying to
use every second we could.”
“First off, a lot of credit has to go to Marion Local
and Columbus Grove for making it a great game. Both teams played
with great emotion and great integrity. It ended up a two-point
game and the reason why was two real football teams. Marion
is a great program and we’re fortunate we got two more
points than they did,” added Cooper.
“We were pretty hyped up at the beginning of the drive,”
said Marion linebacker Eric Schroeder. “We made some big
plays to get them in our kind of down. We had a mental lapse
that allowed them to get the first down. We just couldn’t
With the running game limited to just 32 yards on 21 carries,
Luebke was the primary weapon for the Flyers, going 13-of-21
for 188 yards and no interceptions to go with the two touchdown
passes to Schulze. Several times it looked like the coverage
would prevent the completion only to have the Flyer senior thread
the ball to his receiver.
“He was pretty much on,” said senior Brian Wellman,
who led the game with five catches for 95 yards. “Even
with half the defense on you, he’ll put it in there.”
“We needed to do something to put some points on the board,”
said Luebke. “Once we got things going we got our confidence
back, we started putting some points up. The offensive line
really stepped it up. Those guys played well. They gave me enough
time to throw.”
Cooper, who had expressed some concern earlier in the week with
Luebke, was impressed.
“Give Marion Local a lot of credit, they ran some real
nice routes on us,” said Cooper. “Our guys were
real close in coverage and there was just a step or two in difference
and Luebke put the ball right in there and the receivers made
some nice catches.”