Down to the final two games of the football season, and the playoffs, the quality of programs, and their preparation, are on center stage as the “state” comes calling.
Out of town for this regional final weekend of the state football playoffs, I’ve watched with interest, no less. If you’re a reader of this site you know that we’ve written the Friday ‘picks’ (comments) page about since August 24. We’ve watched every game of the way. Win or lose, we believe we know a little bit about what we’ve seen.
My phone buzzed Saturday morning, from a friend in Franklin County, a person with Champaign County ties.
“Great football game last night between the ‘Burg (Mechanicsburg) and Marion (Local),” he wrote. “Now it gets interesting. It’s a shame you have to watch all those other games to get to this point.”
I get the point of his statement. Impatience. Spare the overture, he’s saying. I just pay to see the opera.
And indeed, when Marion takes on unbeaten Patrick Henry (Hamler, Ohio) next Friday night the dynamics of this opera does change. No longer do you see teams with which you have personal familiarity.
And in the case of the Midwest Athletic Conference (the MAC), no longer do you see teams you’ve played preciously in the regular season, as Recovery and Minster will do later tonight. Now…it does get interesting!
It gets interesting because the quality of teams., their coaching, and their preparation becomes more spotlighted…center stage. There’s a bit of fumbling around in the dark from this point on. You’ve never seen these teams; you don’t know their tendencies. Coaches now rely on film, calls to other coaching colleagues around the state…and their gut.
As to the statement about – it’s a shame we’ve had to play all those other games to get to this point – Marion coach Tim Goodwin spoke volumes with his quote to Press Pros writer Joe Neves following last night’s regional win. Said Goodwin (paraphrasing), “Their league just doesn’t prepare you for games like these the way our does. I’m not sure there’s anything they can do about that. It’s a fact.”
And in fact…it is a fact. One that others get tired of hearing about – the week-in, week-out fist-fight between top teams, all from one league…Marion, Coldwater, Recovery, Minster, St. Henry, Delphos St. John…that make those teams worthy of interest when it comes to the final two weeks of the season.
And another fact – win or lose, they simply have nothing left to prove. They’ve done it so many times before. The interesting part now is…how do they do it this time, with different kids, different skills, and against different opponents…maybe, or maybe not.
But not always. Sometimes they make it more interesting for drama’s sake. Marion shocked the state last year by fumbling on Kirtland’s goal line, denying them what would have been a clinching second half touchdown, allowing the Hornets to flip the momentum and the outcome of the game. Front page news like that doesn’t happen often.
But it keeps you watching, nonetheless – interested. Which makes it all more intriguing now as Marion Local prepares to atone for last year’s egregious error, as if they needed additional motivation. Sorry about your luck, Patrick Henry.
Patrick Henry isn’t living in a vacuum, by the way. They know about the eight previous titles in 15 seasons. They know about the one that got away last year. And their coaches undoubtedly know something about the legacy of Tim Goodwin. The man doesn’t suffer fools from the media (I know, first-hand), or, fumbles on the 1 yard line. There’s nothing fulfilling about second place.
Be assured, the state was watching last night. The road to that big gold trophy in Columbus two weeks from now just got a little tougher for the remaining Division VI teams. And they’re going to be watching tonight as Division V Coldwater and Division VII (Minster and Recovery) duke it out for their own claim to your interest.
You may be tired of it. You may not even like it if you’re frustrated from past encounters with teams from that one particular conference centered in Mercer and Auglaize counties.
But now, after a long, long football season, the rest of the state finally comes calling.
Now…it does get interesting!