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The Daily



12-01-03: Too much Maag for Marion Local


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 fourth quarter.
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 possible.”
Marion coach Tim Goodwin had plenty of praise for the junior back.
“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,” added Goodwin.
Trailing 21-7 at the half, Marion used the opening drive of the second half to inform the Bulldogs that they were in for a game.
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 extra point.
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 stop them.”
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.”


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