Marion Local saved its best for last, routing first-time state finalist Dalton in the Division VII championship game, 38-0…That’s the Flyers’ fifth playoff shutout this season, their third consecutive unbeaten season, record 14th Ohio state title and nation’s-best 48th consecutive victory.
Canton, OH – There was high expectation for the OHSAA Division VII football final Saturday morning…as there always is when it’s Marion Local.
Whether you like it or not, the Flyers are fully vested after 24 years…as the ‘dynasty’ of Ohio High School football under coach Tim Goodwin, with 14 state titles in 17 title appearances, and a current winning streak of 48 games, covering three consecutive seasons of 16-0.
They did not to tarnish that reputation Saturday, throttling first-time final participant Dalton, 38-0, and doing it in such convincing fashion as to again raise the question…is there anything this team can’t do?
But this was a Dalton team, from nearby Wayne County, who many (including Tim Goodwin), believed would present some interesting and athletic matchups for the 14-time champion Flyers.
The Bulldogs were 13-1 entering the final, their only loss coming early in the year to seven-time state champion Kirtland, a competitive game that Kirtland won, 14-7.
But that said, Dalton got off to a rough start…mistakes, penalties, and nerves (unquestionably), and ended up punting to Marion, who took the ball on its 37-yard line. Eight plays later, Kyle Otte scored his first of two TDs on an 8-yard run to put the Flyers ahead, 7-0.
Another Dalton possession, and more nervous twitches, via a fumbled option pitch, then another punt…and another Marion touchdown drive ending with 55 seconds left in the quarter to build a 14-0 lead.
They’re particular about the pronunciation of the village of Dalton…like ‘Dow-tin’…and on its first drive of the second quarter Marion defensive back Griffin Bruns stepped in front of a pass from quarterback Colin Pearson, picked it clean, and raced 80 yards for a ‘pick six’ touchdown to put Marion up, 21-0.
Suddenly, the people from Dalton were ‘doubtin’, because nothing was going well on either side of the ball; and Marion Local was gathering steam for what appeared to be another OHSAA championship romp.
Three minutes later, Marion wide receiver and punt returner Vic Hoelscher erased all doubts as he gathered in yet another Dalton punt at his 36 yard line and cruised 64 yards right up the sideline in front of the Marion bench for yet another score…and 28-0!
Now in jeopardy of playing the entire second half with a running clock, Dalton coach Broc Dial did everything possible to keep possession of the ball long enough to get to the second half with a deficit less than 30 points.
That, too, went awry as Marion got the ball back again via punt, and with a short field set up placekicker Carson Bills, who pushed the margin to 31 with a 19-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the half.
“They’re just a really good football team,” Dial said later, referring to Dalton’s issues getting started. “They played very well, and it just came down to our [early] mistakes. You just can’t make those mistakes when you play a team in this situation.”
“If we played like we usually do the whole season…we lost to Kirtland and then played the rest of the season with our heads up. We knew what we were striving for,” added running back Greyson Siders, responding to the question of how they would match up with Marion if they played again.
He never really said how the rematch might go.
More bad news…Marion — which had won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half — promptly took the kick and moved 65 yards in six plays before Kyle Otte scored his second touchdown to put the Flyers up 38-0, pretty much eliminating any opportunity for a Dalton resurrection.
Marion’s offense was too efficient.
Its defense was too quick, and prepared – anticipatory!
Marion’s experience in big-game situations unquestionable.
The ‘dynasty’, held all the cards, and any team that is going to beat them will have to slow down the Marion Machine, something last done in a state championship game by Kirtland, in 2018!
The Flyers outgained Dalton, 258-171, and did it with 15 fewer plays on offense (29 vs. 44).
They outrushed Dalton, 146-103.
They outpassed Dalton, 112-68.
It was complete domination, a fact that surprised Goodwin, given what he’d seen on film…and given the vibe from out of Wayne County that the Bulldogs were a very good football team, capable of competing with the best of Division VII if given the chance.
“I was surprised by the outcome. I didn’t expect it to be like this,” said Goodwin outside the press room, before boarding the bus for another winning ride back to Mercer County. “We respected them for what they showed us on film. The ‘pick six’ was a back-breaker, obviously. Then we came back with the punt return and those two plays just overshadowed the rest of the game.”
Goodwin fielded multiple questions about, frankly, how Marion Local has gotten to be what it is in 24 years of his leadership.
“It’s a collection of things…our administration, our community, and the support from the parents,” he answered. “But it’s also our locker room. Going through the process we call it chasing perfection. That’s all we do. We chase perfection. So what anyone else says…anything…outside our locker room, it’s nothing to us.”
“We just take it week by week, and game by game,” added senior running back Kyle Otte. “We try not to get too wrapped up in what people are saying.”
“It’s about the week, the journey, and the grind,” said Goodwin, agreeing with Otte. “These guys spend a lot time in the locker room, a lot of time in the weight room, and the older I get the more I appreciate that that’s what football is all about.
“This is what they’ll remember,” he added. “Sure, they’ll remember something about this game or that game, but it’s the bus rides they’re going to remember.”
Kyle Otte will easily remember his senior season and his final game…of rebounding from injury in time to make the Flyers’ post-season run another chapter in that pursuit of perfection. His game line for Saturday: five rushes for 46 yards (9.0 yards per-carry) and a touchdown, six catches for 32 yards and a touchdown, and three punt returns for another 44 yards – 122 all-purpose yards.
“Obviously it’s the last game in my Marion career, and I just wanted to put it out and all on the line,” Otte smiled. “I just tried to do everything for my team and bring it home today. I couldn’t have wished for anything better. We just executed on both sides of the ball, and we put the nail in the coffin in the second half. I felt good to come home with the gold [trophy] again.”
“It’s cool as heck for Kyle, because that’s such a great family, his dad has coached with us forever, and Peyton and Kyle have been a part of the program since they were managers,” added Goodwin. “This is special, and it’s different, when it happens to a kid that you’ve been around that long.”
When we’ve written about ‘dynasty’ in summing up the current Marion Local streak, it’s irritated some people, but it doesn’t seem to irritate Tim Goodwin, who accepts it as part of what the culture of Marion Local football has created.
“There’s an accountability,” Goodwin begins. “And some of it is self-induced, the pressure and the stress. When you’re Marion Local people expect more. They expect you to play a certain way, like when you’re on the big stage today. And we want to play like that – to execute.
“It’s such a weird deal for us when you’re on the inside, because all of that stuff [said and written]…if you pay attention to it, it’s going to do the exact opposite of what we’re working for. We like reading about us, but you just CAN’T FOCUS on it. I learned a long time ago…if you’re just chasing the gold trophy and that’s it, that’s not it. It’s the time we spend together. It’s special, and once the playoffs start, the thought of losing and ending the season is devastating to me. We want to play as long as we can play.”
And they’re going to continue to play. Next year will make 25 years for Goodwin and the Marion culture. And if you’re tired of reading about it in other parts of the state, you have little choice but to acknowledge that the 2024 Flyers are going to return a lot of this latest title team.
The feeder program is growing and proportionately talented.
And Goodwin admits that he’s never had more fun coaching. There’s no end in sight. Dynasties are good.
Title number 14 is just another example.