Marion Local used a stifling defense and near-perfect balance on offense to remind St. Henry and would-be Division VI challengers…the Flyers’ best is yet to come.
Maria Stein – Lest there be any question, or doubt, as to what time of year it is, the Marion Local Flyers (8-1) reminded St. Henry (6-3) Friday night that Week 9 of the football season is “title” time.
Translation: The Flyers narrowed the field of candidates for the league title, and, blew out the engines in preparation for the even bigger goal of every Marion Local team…pursuit of another Division VI state title come the first weekend of December.
They did it with a convincing 31-0 win over their route 119 rivals, snapping an impressive streak by St. Henry (six wins in their last seven games), while establishing the fact that the Flyers’ defense is for real. It was their fourth shutout in a row…limiting the Redskin offense to just 22 total yards.
And, their 31 points came in traditional Marion Local manner – 212 yards passing, and 202 yards rushing, led by Jack Homan (92 yds) and Nate Moeller (62 yards). Balance!
“They punched us right in the mouth and we got our butts beat,” said St. Henry coach Brad Luthman, with all the frankness you’d want. “Simple as that.”
Well, but with one very important caveat. St. Henry quarterback Daylon Lange was forced to leave the game with six minutes left before halftime with an apparent head injury…and he never returned. Hard enough to beat Marion with two hands, let alone with one tied behind your back!
It started this way…scoreless at the end of one quarter. But 58 seconds into the second quarter Marion quarterback Duane Leugers connected with Matt Kahle for a 36 yard touchdown – a play disputed on the St. Henry sideline for the fact of Kahle having stepped out of bounds before he caught the pass.
“I knew that it was real close,” admitted Kahle. “I heard ‘em yelling that I had stepped out of bounds, but I just kept running. I actually thought it might get called back. I didn’t know.”
Nonetheless, the Redskins were competing in a brutally physical game…giving as good as they got. On the ensuing possession Lange rolled out to his left and looked up to see a trio of Marion linebackers. He lowered his head to take the brunt of the blow…and that was the end of his night.
And without Lange, who had played brilliantly in the Redskins two previous wins over Anna and Delphos St. John, the life quickly oozed from the Redskins’ attack.
Marion, on the other hand, would score at the 2:15 mark of the second quarter on a five-yard pass to Ryan Thobe to take a 14-0 halftime lead.
They extended their lead in the third quarter with a 27-yard field goal by Tyler Mescher.
Forcing St. Henry to punt on every possession, Nate Moeller found the end zone for Marion at the 9:29 mark of the fourth; and Jack Homan capped the night’s scoring with 3:49 remaining with a 20-yard run, untouched to the St. Henry goal line.
It was a model of efficiency, on both sides of the ball, reminiscent of vintage late-season Marion football, now a full six weeks removed from the uncertainties evident after John Dirksen was lost for the season with a broken leg.
Like the old Ray Miland movie about the renewal that comes with spring and baseball season (It Happens Every Spring), Marion’s latest shutout sent the message to any and all who might wonder if the Flyers are once again revising their own script…their own season. In this case…it happens every fall!
“We’ll never make an excuse for losing over an injury,” said Luthman. “Look, we had a talk coming into the game…that if we want to get to Marion’s level, to Coldwater’s level, the top teams in our league, we don’t make excuses regardless of who’s playing quarterback. Losing Daylon didn’t change the fact that we only rushed the ball for what seemed like a negative 45 yards.
“Did we want to lose Daylon? No. But I don’t know that it changed the total outcome of the game.”
But credit Luthman for his perceptiveness. While Marion didn’t hold St. Henry to negative 45 yards…they did hold them to a negative 28 yards, largely due to sacks of Lange and his replacement, Nathan Lefeld, behind the line of scrimmage.
Except for the injury to Lange, another shutout and another convincing performance by his defense was a welcome site for Tim Goodwin.
“Our defense has been playing really well, and it’s unfortunate that their quarterback got hurt,” said the Flyers’ coach. “That kid (Lange) was one of the best passing quarterbacks we’d seen all year, so that was a huge loss for them and it no doubt changed the game. I certainly hope he gets healthy.
“But this was a good game for us because we had to earn it. Brad had a great game plan, he took away some stuff that we really like to do, and we just had to fight and make some plays with the passing game.”
Repeated connections between Duane Leugers and Matt Kahle, the 6’3” senior.
“We’re a running team at heart,” said Kahle, peeling a band-aid off his chin after the game. “So when me and Ryan Thobe get opportunities to make plays like we did tonight we have to go out and make ‘em. What we want to do is wear teams down and beat ‘em in the second half, like we did tonight.”
That old familiar feeling…of Marion Local tuning up for the playoffs, irregardless of challenge or opponent. And Goodwin left no doubt as to the respect he had for a stubborn St. Henry effort.
“We’d like to think that’s what we’re doing,” added Goodwin. “But really, we’ve been playing well defensively. We’ve found what we can do, we’ve found the guys we need. We knew it would happen after John went down, but it doesn’t happen in a week. It took a while to get over the shock and have things settle in.
“But St. Henry had a good plan. If you just see the score and stats you might say it was an easy win. But that wasn’t the case. It was very physical and they made us earn it. We’re going to be sore in the morning.”
“Hardly,” cautioned Goodwin, one who rarely credits perfection. “We got beat pretty bad tonight with our special teams, so we’ve got to get some guys out there who want to play. But we’ve got tough kids and we’re going to go back to work.”
Brad Luthman, had something better to anticipate, while the football season still portends ample opportunity for the Redskins with a win in next week’s finale against Ft. Recovery. He and wife Mindy were awaiting the birth of their second child, a daughter, perhaps before dawn.
“Obviously, the rivalry between us and Ft. Recovery has been building because they beat our butts the last couple of years,” said Luthman. “It’s about a lot of pride next week, plus for what it means in terms of a chance to play in Week 11. So we have to bounce back from tonight real quick.”
He was smiling as he walked away, anticipation of a new daughter and in football terms…what every coach looks forward to come Week 10. No one will have more motivation than Luthman, come Monday, for a fantastic finish to this football season.
Unless, that is, you consider Tim Goodwin, who was smiling Friday over his own opportunity…for another fantastic finish. It seems to happen every fall.