By GARY R. RASBERRY
CANTON — In most of the press information that was released
through the week by the powers that be at the Ohio High School
Athletic Association, the one key that was brought up was that
Marion Local was the eighth seed in its region and that the
Flyers were attempting to become the first eighth-seed to win
a state football title.
Probably more than a few fans that braved the chill of Fawcett
Stadium on Saturday thought that Marion might have been playing
above their heads the last couple of weeks and that Grove would
come up big, being Marion was the eighth seed.
Tim Goodwin, however, did not hold that notion.
“I didn’t feel any different going into the playoffs
this year as the eighth seed than when we went as a first seed,”
said the Marion Local coach, who in five years at the school
has two state title trophies. “I thought we could beat
everyone and we dang near did it. This season had some ups and
downs but we had more ups than downs. Once the pain of today
subsides, we’ll have a lot of good memories.”
The Flyers came into the season with a lot of openings for starting
jobs at the three key skilled positions. Chad Otte, who started
under center for the 2001 state title team, had graduated, as
did leading rusher Dan Otte and leading receiver Craig Wolters.
Heir apparents were limited in their play in 2002:
• Cory Luebke attempted just six passes as Otte’s
understudy in 2002.
• Craig Wellman made just two catches for 36 yards in
backing up a potent combo of Wolters, Nick Prenger and Jay Schwieterman.
• Curtis Moeller was playing on the junior varsity as
Things started out alright for the Flyers as the team was 4-1
going into the week six battle with Versailles. The Tigers,
then and still unbeaten, won 37-0. Two weeks later the Flyers
went to Delphos and lost 35-7.
Goodwin at the time said, “The way we played tonight,
we won’t win another game if we keep playing like that.
I’ve never seen anything like this. We’re falling
apart and we’re not even doing the basic things that we
learned in the beginning of camp.”
The Flyers rebounded with must-wins over Lehman and New Bremen
to take the final playoff spot in the region.
Then everything turned around in Week 11. The Flyers defeated
unbeaten Covington in big fashion on the road. The next week
it was Springfield Catholic Central suffering a 42-6 loss to
the Flyer Express. That set up the rematch from 2002 with Hardin-Northern,
who ended the Flyers season 26-16 at Troy.
Trailing 10-0 in the fourth quarter, the Flyers came back, scoring
twice to head to the final four as 14-10 winners. In the state
semis, the Flyers battled Newark Catholic close, scoring with
less than a minute left and holding off the last gasp of the
Green Wave, 21-14 to head to state.
Goodwin gives a lot of the credit to the team coming back around
to the seniors that stepped up and kept things rolling.
“These seniors kept the ball rolling, as far as Marion
Local football goes,” said Goodwin. “These seniors
are more important, as far as the program goes, than the seniors
in my first year in 1999 when we got the ball rolling. We lost
so much (from last season) and these seniors got it going.”
Goodwin also credits the schedule. Facing three playoff teams
during the season — in fact all three of Marion’s
regular season losses came to playoff teams — allowed
the team to see all styles of play and lots of great action.
“Being a Division VI school, we have a big advantage.
If we survive our schedule and get in, we’re not going
to see anything in the playoffs we haven’t seen before.
For us, it’s a huge advantage. We’re proud of our
league, and I think people get tired of hearing about it, but
there’s a heckuva football game every night out. It makes
you better. People get hurt and you put your backups out there.
That helps for next season. It’s kind of an ongoing thing.”
Even a little down by the loss, Goodwin showered the praise
on his team.
“We’re awfully proud of what we accomplished this
year,” said Goodwin. “The kids have done everything
we’ve asked of them and did everything they could today.
End of the day, someone had to win and someone had to lose.
We just couldn’t make a play or two at the end to get
another shot. It wasn’t any of our kids’ fault.