By Randy Bruns
MINSTER -- Friday's night's battle between Marion Local and Minster brought to mind an old Peanuts comic strip.
In it, Lucy is giving Charlie Brown a lengthy rundown of their winless baseball team's horrible statistics, and after hearing enough Charlie retorts: "Tell your statistics to shut up!"
The Wildcats effectively shut the statistics up in this one, as they came away with a 21-7 Midwest Athletic Conference victory over the Flyers, who dominated most of the box score.
Minster raises its record to 3-2 on the year and 2-2 in the MAC, while Marion falls to 1-4 overall and 1-3 in the league.
The most striking statistical anomaly in this one was first down totals. The Flyers piled up 17 first downs with a ground game that chewed up the clock, while the Wildcats couldn't put together any sustained drives and garnered just five first downs. Minster took advantage of big plays and turnovers to turn the tide of the game, however, making the statistics meaningless. The Wildcat defense also shined, as it stopped the Flyers from scoring on three different drives that made it to the Wildcat 10-yard line.
The Wildcats got the scoring underway early in the second quarter. Ty Parks took a direct snap from center and swept left, found a seam and evaded defenders by crossing all the way to the right side of the field en route to a 65-yard touchdown. Brendan Whitford's PAT made the score 7-0.
After the kickoff, the Wildcats quickly struck again. From his defensive end spot, Dane Sommer stepped in front of Ryan Stucke's slant pass, grabbed the pick and trotted into the end zone for a 36-yard score.
The Flyers responded with an impressive display of ball control football. Starting at their own 29, the visitors used 12 runs and one pass to hit paydirt, as Stucke scrambled in from four yards out. Dan Fortkamp's extra-point made the score 14-7.
After holding Minster to a three-and-out, Marion had a chance to tie the game before halftime. A 25-yard pass to Curtis Moeller brought the ball down to the Minster three, prompting Stucke to throw into the ground to stop the clock. A run by Jeff Otte brought the ball to the one, but the Flyers tried the same play and Otte was stopped short of the end zone as time expired.
The Wildcats' opportunistic defense got them a much-needed insurance score early in the second half. Moeller fumbled while heading upfield, and the ball bounced directly to Troy Parks' waiting arms. The junior raced 30-yards untouched into the end zone, and after Whitford's third point-after the score was 21-7.
With the way Marion was moving the ball, the game certainly wasn't over at that point, and it took two more stands by the Minster defense to seal the deal.
On a drive that started midway through the third quarter and ended early in the fourth, the visitors marched 71 yards on 19 plays but came up empty when the Wildcat defense put the clamps on by forcing an incompletion on fourth down.
Later in the final stanza the Flyers made one more deep foray into Wildcat territory but were again turned away. This time it was Alex Stricker making the play, as the senior intercepted a fourth-down Stucke pass to put the final nail in the Flyers' coffin with five minutes to play.
The win was huge for Minster, which had lost its last six meetings with Marion. Coach Whit Parks, who began his tenure at Minster when the streak started, not surprisingly pointed to his defense as the key to the game.
"Defensively especially, our kids rose up two or three times and made the plays when they had to," said Parks. "(Marion) had a lot of opportunities down close, but our defense didn't concede anything when they got the ball to the 10-yard line. The second defensive touchdown was huge because it made it a two-touchdown game, and they had to get away from their gameplan a little bit and play a little more of a catch-up role."
Marion coach Tim Goodwin has seen his team play tight ballgames all year with not much yet to show for it.
"First of all I feel bad for our kids," said Goodwin. "They work their tails off during the week and for the most part play fairly well during these games. It's been a recurring theme, where we're not making the big plays or the consistent plays, and it's very frustrating. Our biggest problem right now is mental and it's tough to turn that around."
Both teams resume action Friday with big rivalry games. Marion will entertain next door neighbor Versailles, while Minster travels three miles north to take on New Bremen in the Battle of Ohio 66.