Hobbled by injuries and some sudden issues of ‘lackluster’, Marion pieced together enough game for a reinforcing win over Versailles.
Maria Stein – I’m very familiar with that one favorite cliché that seems to permeate conversation with high school football coaches when they talk about their respective teams.
Bill Nees talked about it three weeks ago at Piqua, in reference to the loss of key players for the season.
Brent Niekamp mentioned it a couple of weeks ago at Ft. Recovery, again for the curse of injuries.
And frankly, I can’t think of one that hasn’t actually uttered the phrase at some point in the past five weeks, or five years…”We’ve got to learn to overcome adversity.”
Which is exactly what Marion Local has done for the past two Friday nights, dismantling Minster a week ago after losing starting junior tackle John Dirksen the previous week with a broken right leg against Coldwater in their only loss of the season.
Next man up? Another common cliché in sports, meaning the person who’s job it is to replace a fallen comrade is expected to play in his place without a drop in efficiency or performance. Easier said than done, of course.
But while 5′,11″, 180 pound teammate Ryan Kemper has filled in admirably at tackle for Dirksen at Marion Local (4-1), the latest evidence being Friday’s 28-7 win over now 2-3 Versailles, “next man up” comes with some sacrifices.
Subs and those playing substantive minutes for the first time in their varsity life sometimes play “carefully”, dispassionately, or worse…timidly.
Citing another well-worn cliche’, it seemed to be the elephant in the room Friday as Tim Goodwin’s now 4-1 Flyers found just enough big plays, just enough execution as a result of habit, to overcome a stubborn defensive effort by Versailles, a team that’s known its own medical miseries in recent weeks.
“I was happy with how our defense played,” said Tigers coach Adam Miller. “We just struggle to score. Our offense depends a lot on timing and we’ve had enough injuries where we had kids learning new positions this week. That makes it tough against a team like Marion.”
Well, to the issue of how Marion overcomes diversity, the Flyers struck early on their first possession…midway through the first quarter on a 20 yard pass from Duane Leugers to wideout Matt Kahlig.
Two minutes into the second, after another change of possession, senior Nate Moeller romped into the end zone from five yards out to make the score 14-0.
And confronted with the question: Is there an urgency to find some conformity to typical Marion manner of operation, Tim Goodwin doesn’t resort to clichés…or even concerns about hardship. His antidote to adversity? Just play.
“I watched a little bit of the Patriots’ game last night,” he added after Friday’s game. “And they didn’t seem to worry about who would play quarterback. I think that’s the attitude we need to have.”
But Versailles had something to say about that, too. Their defense was well-prepared. The Tigers did play hard. They just couldn’t score. Their lone touchdown came midway through the third quarter from Keaton McEldowney to Sam Barga on a 15-yard pass after starting quarterback Alex Wendel was forced from the game with an ankle injury. Aside from that, a punting exhibition from Josh Steinbrunner…who was excellent! He should have been; he had a lot of practice.
Which, of course, provided plenty of opportunity for Marion to run offense, run new people into the game, and generally, try to find some momentum. It was tough!
The one bright spot…Nate Moeller, who cranked out 113 rushing yards, a touchdown, and a sparkling 60-yard kickoff return that set up a Duane Leugers’ rushing touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter. That made the score 21-7, and the Flyers’ final score came two possessions later on a 25-yard pass from Leugers to Ryan Thobe. Moeller turned out to be just the antidote Goodwin and the Flyers needed.
“We’ve had some injuries,” admitted Moeller. “And there was some adversity in the Coldwater game. But we need to come out and play with more passion as a unit, and it’s just not there yet. But we’ll get there.
“It’s really nice that some of the other guys like Ryan Kemper can step up (playing in place of John Dirksen) and do a pretty good job. It’s definitely tougher when you have playmakers hurt and other people have to step in, but good teams can do that.”
It can amount to being pedestrian in nature, lackluster in looks. But a win is a win, and midway through the season gives Goodwin and the Flyers some time to reorganize and refit the parts.
“Right now nothing’s coming easy for us,” he admitted. “Versailles was a quality opponent tonight. They’re well-coached and they have some guys that want to play football. You can’t underestimate Versailles’ effort, but I’m not happy with the way we played, either. I’m anxious to look at the film.”
But to the truth of the matter, the Marion Flyers aren’t the New England Patriots, boys compared to men. And the adversity of replacing a John Dirksen, or Ben Homan, etc., is as common to high school football as your next favorite cliche’ – something Tim Goodwin has dealt with before.
“Losing Dirksen was tough,” said Goodwin. “I ain’t gonna’ lie to you, it’s tough. He’s such a great kid. He’s a leader that got everybody going.
“But to be honest, you can’t make excuses in football. The Patriots find a way to win with the guys they’ve got and we’ve just got to take the guys we’ve got and find out what they can do.”
To the actual outcome of Friday’s game, Goodwin, the perfectionist, got a good look at what his guys did, and didn’t, do.
“Our defense was pretty good, but we gave up that drive and score. Coaches are perfectionists and we shouldn’t have given up that drive,” he added. “We should have created turnovers tonight and we didn’t do that. So no, I’m not totally satisfied. We’re doing OK, but we need more. I have higher expectations for us…I just do.”
Nate Moeller mentioned passion, and Goodwin shared in his post-game talk with his team that you cannot meet anyone’s higher expectations in football without passion! But can you coach passion in the face of so many injuries…so much adversity?
“It’s something you have to get out of your kids,” concluded Goodwin as he walked to the dressing room. “We’re playing hard every week, but we’re not playing passionately. There’s a difference. We’ve got to find it. You try every trick you know.”
And how do you find that difference? Leave it to the difference maker, that’s how – the guy with eight state titles.
He knows a trick, or two!