By Randy Bruns
MARIA STEIN -- Call it a little bit of sweet revenge.
The Marion Local Flyers scored two times in the fourth quarter Friday night to defeat the Delphos St. John's Blue Jays by a score of 28-21 at Booster Field.
The irony is that St. John's did the exact same thing to the Marion -- right down to the final score -- in the second round of last year's playoffs on its way to the school's fourth state championship.
Marion Local moves to 6-2 on the year and keeps its playoff hopes alive, while St. John's falls to 5-3 and likely will need to beat Coldwater in Week 10 to make the postseason.
This one was a game of opportunities -- namely, the Flyers provided plenty of them for the Blue Jays. But the visitors couldn't take advantage enough times, and the Flyers never gave in despite an inconsistent offense and a nine-point deficit early in the final frame. Just under a minute into the fourth quarter, the Flyers took over on their own 36-yard line. The play calling was simple: Marc Otte left and Marc Otte right, as the tailback lugged the ball seven straight times to get the ball down to the Blue Jay 17. Quarterback Chris Stucke then ran for five and passed for six more to move to the six-yard line, and Otte did the rest of the work by sweeping in for a score. Stucke then found Damon Bertke for the two-point conversion to move the Flyers within one at 21-20.
Now it was time for the Marion defense to get the ball back.
After giving up a first down and then nine more yards, the Flyers stonewalled the Blue Jays on third-and-one and then fourth-and-one to give their offense one more shot.
Not surprisingly, it was Otte that did most of the shooting.
After Stucke ran twice for 16 yards, Otte took over by rushing three times for 30 yards before slicing into the end zone from three yards out for the go-ahead score. Stucke once again hit Bertke for the two-pointer, and the Flyers had their first lead of the night at 28-21.
St. John's made the home fans squirm on its final drive, as it completed a pair of passes to move into Marion territory. Otte came up big one last time, though, by intercepting a pass to seal the win.
Otte's huge fourth quarter was quite a turnaround for the
senior, as he had lost two fumbles earlier, the second of which led to a Blue Jay score.
"It feels really good, I just had to keep my head up," said Otte of his goat-to-hero performance. The line helped me out a lot, because without them I wouldn't have been able to do anything."
Marion coach Tim Goodwin was of the same mind.
"Those guys had to do a whale of a job up front," said Goodwin of his offensive line. "Marc ran hard and put those fumbles behind him. We thought those might be the difference in the game, but thankfully our defense hung in there and gave us a chance."
It didn't appear the Flyers would have much of a chance in the first half, as three turnovers short-circuited what looked to be positive drives. None of the first-half miscues led directly to Blue Jay scores, but that was mainly due to the stout play of the Flyer defense, which held the visitors scoreless two times down in Flyer territory in the second quarter.
"We just didn't execute very well," said St. John's coach Todd Schulte. "We forced three turnovers in the first half and we didn't get a point out of them. If you don't capitalize on something like that in a big game you're not going to win."
The Blue Jays got on the board on their second possession of the game when Adam Johnson hit Tony Reindel for a two-yard touchdown pass. The Flyers quickly countered when Otte took the resulting kickoff back to the Blue Jay 19 and later scored from five yards out. The point-after snap was bobbled, however, and the score remained 7-6.
St. John's came right back, as Johnson dialed long distance and hit Andrew Mancinotti for a 27-yard touchdown pass that made the score 14-6 at halftime. Marion then opened the third quarter with a seven-play drive that quickly went 80 yards, with Otte again scoring on a five-yard sweep. But the visitors then took a nine-point lead when Johnson scrambled in from 16 yards
Otte did yeoman's work on the night, as he carried 36 times for 184 yards. Stucke helped out on the ground as well, toting the ball 10 times for 61 yards.
Marion now faces another tough game, as it travels to Anna on Friday. St. John's returns home next week to host New Bremen.