By Randy Bruns
VERSAILLES -- The Marion Local Flyers hung tough with the powerful Versailles Tigers Friday night, but in the end, it was the Tigers' big-play ability that made the difference in a 28-10 victory.
The win keeps Versailles undefeated at 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Midwest Athletic Conference, while Marion falls to 4-2 on the year and 3-2 in the MAC.
The Flyers moved the ball well for most of the night but managed just two scores despite breaking into Tiger territory on six drives.
"We had our opportunities," said Marion coach Tim Goodwin. "We played hard and we did a lot of things well but we didn't do enough things well to take advantage (of our chances). We've driven the ball against everyone this year, but when we get in the red zone, we bog down and don't make the big play when we have the chance. Against a good team you get one chance to make a big play. You don't get re-dos like you do in practice."
The Flyers couldn't have scripted a much better start to the game, as they ran 14 plays that took six minutes off the clock on their opening possession. After gaining a first down at the Tigers' five, though, the visitors managed just three yards on their next three plays and had to settle for Dan Fortkamp's 19-yard field goal. After the teams traded punts, the Tigers boarded the big play train. Matt Murphy ran for 25 yards on the second play of the drive and two plays later he took a handoff and weaved his way through most of the Flyer defense on his way to a 43-yard touchdown scamper. Zac Richard's point-after made the score 7-3 just before the first quarter ended.
The Flyers quickly answered with big plays of their own, as Mitch Thobe ran for 22 yards on a counter and two plays later Curtis Moeller took a draw handoff and raced for 50 yards to the Tiger four-yard line. Sophomore Luke Homan barged in on the next play to give the Flyers the lead back at 10-7.
After forcing the Tigers to punt, the Flyers threatened again after Thobe caught a pass for 21 yards and Moeller busted a 22-yard gain to bring the ball to the Tiger 17-yard line. The Tigers stiffened, though, and held the Flyers to four yards on three plays before forcing an incompletion on fourth down.
Versailles grabbed the momentum and scored on its next drive. Two passes from Tony McNeilan to Andy Francis bookended the drive, with the second being a 42-yarder that gave the Tigers the lead for good.
The Tigers opened up some daylight on the first possession of the second half. The big play this time was a 40-yard swing pass from McNeilan to Curtis Wourms that brought the ball to the Flyer 11-yard line. Two plays later, Wourms vaulted in from one yard out to make the score 21-10.
After an exchange of possessions, the Flyers had a chance to get back in the game when they drove to the Tigers' 22-yard line. After two runs netted six yards, consecutive passes fell incomplete and the ball went back to the Tigers.
Versailles added the final margin of victory in the fourth quarter on a nine-play drive that consisted of all running plays, with Russ Beisner going the final two yards for a touchdown.
Murphy's 130 yards on just 11 carries led a Tiger rushing attack that piled up 239 yards on 42 totes. McNeilan was efficient after a missing on his first three passes, as he hit on five of his last six and finished with 110 yards through the air. The Tiger defense was stout in stopping the Flyers after giving up yardage.
"We bent but we didn't break, and that's a great team victory," said Versailles coach Al Hetrick. "Everyone plays the Tigers tough, and Marion Local is tougher than nails. Our kids responded in the second half with some nice drives that we needed. Everybody was excitable tonight, and we calmed down a little bit at halftime and played our game."
Both teams will take on winless foes on Friday. Marion will look to start another win streak when Fort Recovery comes to town while Versailles will travel to New Bremen.