By Randy Bruns
ANNA -- The high school football playoffs don't start for two weeks yet, but as far as the Marion Local Flyers are concerned, the postseason began a week ago.
The Flyers needed another victory over a solid team Friday night to solidify their playoff standing, and they delivered in convincing fashion with a 34-13 win over the Anna Rockets.
The win is Marion's sixth straight and ups its record to 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the Midwest Athletic Conference, while Anna falls to 5-4 on the year and 4-4 in league play.
The margin of victory was a little deceiving, as the Rockets had the ball and trailed by just eight points in the fourth quarter. But the statistics were lopsided in the Flyers' favor, as they outgained the hosts 391-to-134 and piled up 19 first downs to just nine for the Rockets.
Both teams squandered early scoring opportunities, as the Rockets fumbled deep in Flyer territory on the game's opening drive. The visitors returned the favor on the ensuing possession. Midway through the second quarter, the Flyers turned to some trickery to get on the board, as Greg Gehret took a reverse handoff from Marc Otte. Gehret wasn't interested in running, though, as the receiver lofted a long spiral that Zach Rosenbeck hauled in for an 80-yard touchdown.
The Flyer momentum was extremely short-lived, however, as Anna's Cory Sniffen took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted virtually untouched up the middle of the field en route to an 85-yard touchdown return.
When the Flyers got the ball back, they put together a perfect response by mixing some timely passes in with tough yards on the ground. Marc Otte did the bulk of the damage on the 13-play drive, as the tailback carried eight times before Chris Stucke hit Damon Bertke for a 16-yard scoring strike to give the Flyers the lead at halftime.
Marion ground out another time-gobbling drive midway through the third quarter when they went 45 yards on 11 plays with Otte going the final yard for the score. Anna wouldn't go away, however, as the Rockets covered 56 yards on 14 plays before Bryant Bensman bulled in from a yard out on fourth down. The point-after kick was wide, though, leaving the hosts with a 21-13 deficit.
After the Flyers punted on their ensuing possession, Otte came up big on the defensive side of the ball. The senior picked off a pass at midfield and returned it 35 yards to the Rocket 15 yard-line. Three plays later, Stucke hooked up with Bertke again on a 10-yard touchdown pass that made the (Continued from page 18)
score 27-13. Otte finished the scoring two drives later when he scampered 58 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
Otte was even more of a workhorse than last week when he gained 184 yards on 34 carries, as this time he lugged the ball an astounding 39 times for 191 yards.
While the Flyers haven't officially clinched a playoff spot, it would take a lot of upsets to keep them out. Coach Tim Goodwin knew full well that this game was essentially a play-in game for the playoffs, and he prepared his team accordingly.
"We took the approach that this was a playoff-quality team we were facing," said Goodwin. "We hadn't seen them or played them before, and they're a good team. With the way we've been playing, we're on a pretty nice roll right now. The players have confidence, which is something they lacked earlier this year, and confidence is a big thing in this game."
Anna struggled mightily to get its high-powered offense going, as it finished with just 35 yards rushing, due in part to six sacks by the Marion defense.
"We just could not get things done," said Anna coach Bryan Rioch. "We knew they were going to bring pressure, so they didn't do anything that surprised us. Our game plan was to get out on the perimeter, but they were faster out there than I anticipated. I give their players a lot of credit for running the football well and keeping our speed in check."
Both teams head out on the road next week, as Marion will travel to New Bremen and Anna makes the short trek west to Minster.