The Marion Local Flyers used a punishing ground game and superior physicality against CJ to control the clock and make an opening statement of intent for 2016. And be assured, they haven’t forgotten how 2015 ended, either.
Dayton – I’ve always been cynical of a particular professed motivation – the term “unfinished business” that so many athletes are prone to recite.
What it usually means is they didn’t win in the past when they could have, and if they talk about it enough in the present maybe it helps to reconcile. I dunno.
But if there is such a thing of motivation from something left unfinished from a year previous…the almost 4,000 who witnessed Marion Local’s opening statement against Chaminade-Julienne in Friday’s christening of the Eagles new Roger Glass Stadium – and Saturday morning’s continuance after lightning forced suspension the night before – went home impressed by the Flyers’ sincerity.
It was a case of “Blue (Marion’s colors) By You”, borrowing from the old Linda Ronstadt lyrics, as the Flyers used their punishing running attack behind quarterback Duane Leugers’ 112 yards rushing and four touchdowns to blow by CJ, 34-14.
For balance, Leugers (pronounced like ‘tigers’) threw it just enough (5 of 10 for 113 yards) to make Chaminade honest, and respectful of the eight-time state champs: That they could pretty much do what they wanted to do…when they wanted to do it!
Except breathe, perhaps. Continued at 10 am Saturday, the temperature on the artificial turf at Glass stadium was already in the high 90s, the humidity stifling after the overnight rains. By noon the field had risen to well over 100 (94 actual air temperature), and by game’s end players from both teams were showing the effects.
“Brutal, just brutal conditions to play in,” said Marion coach Tim Goodwin. “Especially combined with what we went through last night (sitting and sweating in the locker room during the hour and forty five minute delay).”
But to a man, if questioned, Leugers , Dirksen, et. al. will share that the weather was secondary to the motivation of last year’s second half letdown in the Division VI championship loss to Kirtland, a hard pill to swallow. “It stuck hard in the backs of our minds,” said Leugers recently. “But there’s nothing you can do about it now. We just have to go out and play.”
Yes you do; and yes, they did!
And for defensive emphasis, the eight-time small school champs came out rocking. A massive sack on CJ quarterback Ryan Peltier at the end of Friday night’s first quarter by linebacker Jack Homan, who blew by Peltier’s backside protection and knocked the junior signal caller senseless, set the tone. Peltier left the field under his own power, but barely, out for the night with concussion symptoms. To his credit, he was back under center for the first snap on Saturday.
Offensively, Marion coach Tim Goodwin debuted backs Henry Keller, Nate Moeller, and the afore-mentioned Homan (the biggest of the three), pounding the ball down the field, left, center and right, the Flyers scoring first at 4:48 in the first on a one-yard sneak by Duane Leugers.
They could have gone aces early, on their next possession at the start of the second quarter. Different direction, same offense, almost the same result. But a painful reminder kept them out of the end zone, Keller fumbling the ball back to CJ on the Eagles 4 yard line, killing the drive.
Chaminade ran a couple of plays, advanced the ball out beyond the shadow of the goal line (a first down)…and then the lightning!
The Flyers didn’t miss a beat when they resumed. At 4:59 of the second quarter Leugers surveyed his options and streaked 15 yards into the end zone for his second touchdown.
Three minutes later, on their next possession, he claimed the hat trick – this time a beautiful 27-yard sprint, untouched, through the Eagles secondary for his third score.
“We’ll have to play mistake-free football to beat Marion,” said Eagles coach Marcus Colvin last week. “I want to watch and learn something from Coach Goodwin.”
And by their 20-0 halftime lead and dominance at the line of scrimmage, Goodwin and the Flyers gave Colvin enough cause to take a few notes.
But CJ was talented, quick, and persistent to chip away. Struggling to run against the physically superior Marion front and ‘backers, Peltier threw often and effectively enough to move his offense deep into Marion territory on the first possession of the third quarter. At the 6 minute he hooked up with Jacquel Freemon-Parks on a 27-yard strike to cut the lead to 20-7.
Leugers and company were unfazed, except by the heat, perhaps, and quickly scored on his fourth rushing touchdown of the game…his longest…35 yards to make the score 26-7. The only deficiency in their game was the kicking game. The Flyers missed badly on a pair of point after attempts.
Moments later Peltier again took advantage of a tiring Marion secondary, connecting with Darian Jones, whose touchdown was too little, and too late, but he celebrated by flipping his way into the end zone, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty on the ensuing kick.
Unable to move in the heat and the sweat, Marian was forced to punt with 9 minutes left in the game, leading by 12 points. Peltier went right to work moving to midfield on a couple of passes before his attempt over the middle for tight end Colin Downing was deflected and picked off by safety Matt Rethman. Rethman returned the ball to the CJ 40.
Killing clock and the exhausted CJ defense, Nate Moeller took over for Marion, carrying on three plays and eventually scoring from 4 yards out to close the issue, 34-14. The final point after attempt was for two points, from Leugers through the air to Ryan Thobe.
“Week one is always a season in and of itself,” said Goodwin afterwards. “We did some good things and there were some things that we’ll clean up. We may having running backs by committee for awhile, or maybe all year. We’ll see what they do well and try to put them in the best spots. Obviously CJ has some athletes and they’re going to do some things this year. That part wasn’t unexpected.
“Matt Rethman really helped us with the interception in the fourth quarter because they were moving the ball and had momentum. That sealed the deal, them down two scores and giving us the ball in their territory. That was a huge play.”
Pausing for impact, perhaps, he added, “I like our team.”
The play of Duane Leugers at quarterback was not only assuring, but spectacular.
“Duane is Duane,” added Goodwin. “That’s what we expected and he’s only gonna’ get better. And hopefully we will too.”
“It was a total team effort,” the senior quarterback said modestly in the Flyers’ sweltering, and smelly, locker room. “Everybody contributed. Everybody did their job. It was hot, muggy, and miserable and everyone just played. We trained hard for days like today and I think it showed today. Some people got hot and tired, but we hung in there and got a victory.”
He finished with 112 yards rushing, four scores, and and additional 112 yards passing, accounting for nearly 60% of Marion’s total of 384 total yards on offense.
Penalties hurt, three big ones in particular, subtracting yards that would have put the Flyers well in excess of 400 yards for the game.
“But they were impressive,” said a smiling Marcus Colvin, considering his words from a week ago and what his team had learned in head-to-head confrontation.
“We lost today and I think we could have played a lot better. And when you play a team like that it makes you a lot better the next you play. They put a lot of stress on you, especially up front. They were more physical and they pushed us around some. That wasn’t a surprise and it’s what you expect from them. But I was pleased with the way we answered, our character, and the way we hung in there. I have a lot of respect for (Marion).
One of the classiest among the area’s fine young coaches, you sensed that Marcus Colvin wasn’t being gracious for the sake of being gracious in losing. You do get better by playing better teams in any sport. And occasionally you really are fortunate enough to play the best.
And Tim Goodwin even likes them. What’s that tell you?