Dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage, the Marion Local Flyers made it look easy in a dominating win over West Liberty-Salem in the opening round of the Region 22, D-VI Playoffs. The Flyers now get a rematch with MAC foe St Henry in the Regional semifinals next week.
Maria Stein — One statistic tells you all you really need to know about Friday’s playoff opener between Marion Local and West Liberty-Salem.
Through the first three quarters, the top seeded Flyers, co-champions of the rugged Midwest Athletic Conference, had 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 36 yards in losses.
The Tigers, a number 8 seed out of the Ohio Heritage Conference, had 1 tackle behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of three yards.
You can probably figure out the rest.
Marion Local scored the first four times it had the ball and rolled to a 34-7 win over the game, but out-manned Tigers in the opening round of the D-VI playoffs at Booster Field. The win sends the 10-1 Flyers into the Regional semifinals next week against MAC opponent St. Henry, a 37-22 winner on the road at Spencerville. The Flyers shutout the Redskins 31-0 in week 9.
“I thought we played well in the first half,” Flyers coach Tim Goodwin said after notching his 207th win as Flyers head coach. “We came out and made some plays. We weren’t quite as sharp, I don’t think, but you have to give some credit to West Liberty-Salem. They came out and played hard for 48 minutes.”
The Flyers got on the board quickly after the Tigers went three and out to start the game. Marion needed just 5 plays to roll 45 yards, with Nate Moeller scoring from the 1. Just over 3 and a half minutes into the game, it was 7-0 Flyers.
“We wanted to get off to a fast start,” Goodwin continued. “It’s a home playoff game, they had an hour bus ride, plus they are big. We wanted to get the lead so they couldn’t just pound on us.”
Then a funny thing happened. The Flyers gave up a touchdown.
Not since Versailles scored a touchdown in a 28-7 Flyers win in week five had the Marion defense allowed a score of any kind. After a big kickoff return, West Liberty ended that streak on a 25-yard run by Brandon Wolfe. The Tigers tied the game at 7, and gave hope to the visiting fans that this might be a contest after all.
Well, not so fast, Tiger fans.
Marion went 71 yards in just three plays to regain the lead. The touchdown came on a 23-yard strike from quarterback Duane Leugers to senior wide receiver Matt Kahlig, and put the Flyers on top to stay.
“That felt good, especially in our last game at Booster Field,” said Kahlig, who caught three passes for 51 yards. “It was good to have one more game here, and to come out on top.”
The Tigers next possession ended in disaster, when Marion linebacker Jared Bergman intercepted a Luke Woods pass and returned it to the Tiger 8 yard line. Leugers scored on the next play, and the Tigers led 20-7 after 1.
West Liberty-Salem simply could not move the ball after their only touchdown drive. They ran 15 additional plays in the first half and gained a grand total of 8 yards against Marion’s gang-tackling defense. The Tigers punted on 8 straight possessions, their last four of the first half, and their first four of the second half.
“We thought our defense had a good match-up with their offense,” Goodwin explained. “We just gave up that one.”
“We had our consecutive game shutout streak snapped tonight, but overall, the defense played well,” acknowledged Kahlig. “Our offense has been playing well, both with the pass and the run.”
Marion put the game away in the second quarter. Senior running back Jack Homan scored on a 4-yard run to cap an 11 play, 54 yard drive, and Leugers threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this one 14 yards to Tanner Ungruhn, with 1:42 remaining in the half. The Flyers had five different players score first half touchdowns and led 34-7 at the break.
“We came out the way we wanted to in the first half,” Kahlig said. “The second half wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but the first half was good enough to get the job done.”
Goodwin took advantage of the lopsided score to get a lot of players in the game in the second half on both sides of the ball. The Flyers had a couple of opportunities to pad the lead in the second half, but turned the ball over on downs.
“A game like this is good for your program,” Goodwin said after the Flyers won their 17th straight playoff opener. “You get kids out there in a game like this and that helps you in the future.”
Marion Local had 230 yards total offense in the first half, including 84 yards rushing by Homan and 65 on the ground by Moeller. Both saw limited action after halftime. Leugers was 7 of 13 in the half for 73 yard, and had one more completion to finish with 94 yards through the air.
Now the Flyers get ready for a rematch with a St Henry team that will definitely remember that week 9 loss.
“That will be a tough one,” Goodwin said. “They are a good team and they are well-coached. That will be a head-knocker.
The Flyers, of course, had won four straight titles before a bitter championship game loss to Kirtland last December. Kahlig said that loss has been motivation all season.
“It has, but coach was just talking about that this week. He said that we may see Mechanicsburg down the line, we may see Kirtland again. But we can’t play either of those teams this week. We had to prepare this week for West Liberty-Salem, and next week it’s St Henry. We have to prepare one week at a time and we will get to where we want to go.”