It was very business-like, and without drama. Marion Local relied on its defense to stifle Patrick Henry in the Division VII state semi-final, 42-0.
Lima, OH – It’s not fair, perhaps, to say that the Marion Local Flyers have made the OHSAA state semi-final game a corporate exercise, but fact is fact after 17 years.
Friday night’s 42-0 win over Patrick Henry was just that business-like, that routine, with the finality of a corporate takeover…despite the Flyers playing less than their best on offense.
It didn’t matter.
And after 24 years, and 17 trips to the state title game, who’s to question? Rather, one has to admire the efficiency and confidence with which they do it.
Games of this magnitude are supposed to be drama-packed. And for teams not-so-accustomed as Marion Local, that’s usually the case. But by the eight-minute mark of the first quarter, Marion had all but drained the drama from Coach Bill Inselmann’s 12-3 Patriots.
After going three-and-out on its opening possession, Marion quickly returned the favor by stopping Patrick Henry on its first series of downs. And after forcing the Patriots to punt, the Flyers quickly drove 56 yards in seven plays and scored on a four-yard run by Ethan Heitkamp to go ahead, 7-0.
The Patriots took the ensuing kickoff, sputtered again in the face of Marion’s defensive pursuit, punted, and watched as Marion duplicated the previous drive to score again on a 6-yard run by Kyle Otte. At 1:10 of the first quarter, the Flyers had a 14-0 lead.
Down by two touchdowns, Patrick Henry was actually fortunate the deficit was not more, as Marion had misfired on a couple of deep throws downfield, looking to bury the dagger quickly and affect a faster start. But on the Patriots’ next possession, Marion accomplished that objective without throwing the ball. Instead, it turned to the special teams.
Forced to punt from its end zone, Patrick Henry punter Emilio Raymundo kicked it right into the chest of Marion’s Parker Hess, the ball bounced backwards towards the goal line, and teammate Carter Jones scooped it up and scored with :10 seconds on the clock to put the Flyers ahead 21-0.
As the temperatures dropped in the night chill, so, too, did the hopes of Patrick Henry and a cheering contingent wishing for a miracle in the making. Miracles are hoped for, of course, but never guaranteed. Marion’s defense saw to that, harassing Patriots’ quarterback Lincoln Creager and slashing to the football without hesitation, holding the Patriots to less than 100 yards of net offense in the first half.
And with 1:19 left in the half, quarterback Justin Knouff romped nine yards for a fourth touchdown to give Marion a 28-0 halftime cushion.
The shock wave continued with Patrick Henry receiving the second half kickoff. Creager launched a pass downfield that was caught, not by his receiver, but by Marion’s Daniel Everman, who weaved his way upfield with a full escort of blockers and into the end zone for 52 yards and a second defensive score. Marion now led 35-0 less than a minute into the quarter.
Five minutes later, on the Flyers’ first offensive possession of the half, Ethan Heitkamp broke contain, turned upfield, and raced 32 yards for his second touchdown to conclude the scoring at 42-0.
With a running clock, and substitutes into the game, things closed down quickly, highlighted by a defensive stand inside the Red Zone that preserved the shutout with three minutes remaining. Business closed, the Flyers put the final touches on their 47th consecutive win and another trip to the Division VII title game next week in Canton, to face the 13-1 Dalton Bulldogs, who defeated Caldwell, 55-7.
“We missed some things offensively tonight. It was cold, and we were just a little bit off at the start with the passing game,” said Goodwin. “But the defense played well. We gave up some yards, but we took away the big play. We had the short field our first two drives and that helped, because it’s hard to execute the whole field. When we show up, we have three facets – offense, defense, and special teams. We work hard on all three, and we expect all three to perform well.”
He pretty much got all three, notwithstanding those early throws that failed to connect with Victor Hoelscher and Andrew Pohlman. But the running game delivered most of the 240 yards of total offense for the game – huge chunks at a time by Heitkamp, Drew Lause, Kyle Otte, and Justin Knouff. Marion simply had too many weapons for the Patriots to defend.
The Flyers’ quickness on defense, and the play of Simon Partington and Ethan Heitkamp stood out.
“For sure,” Goodwin assured. “Our defense really played well and I didn’t think we’d shut this team out. They had been pretty explosive all year and they had a lot of athletes making plays on film. But we had the experience factor. The fast start was a big advantage and there has to be some doubt in the other team’s mind when you get out fast. They start thinking ‘Well, we were afraid this was going to happen.'”
It remains now to be seen…another final, an unfamiliar opponent, and the ultimate challenge that seems to motivate Goodwin and the Flyers like nothing else. One more game, high stakes, and winner take all!
“They (Dalton) got our attention early this year because they played Kirtland really tough in week one. So we’ve kept our eye on Dalton all year,” he shrugged.
“But the biggest thing for me is it’s one more week of football. That’s what we all love. We’re maxing out at 16 weeks, and that makes me happy. We get one more week.”
And a week they dream about. They’re again the best in their region, and a state finalist for a 17th time.
And for those who wonder, who question, the remarkable record of consistency of Goodwin and the Flyers, consider this. For their 17 trips to the state title game, it amounts to about 85 additional weeks of practice over those 17 seasons. Now you know why the extra week is so important.
As the real business begins.