WAPAKONETA – Showing the resolve and poise of team that has won four straight state football titles, Marion Local used machine-like precision to dismantle West Liberty-Salem, 34-0, in a Division VI, Region 22 semifinal Saturday night at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field.
The win puts the top-seeded Flyers (11-1) into what may well be the most intriguing and anticipated football game in the entire state of Ohio in Week 13, the Division VI, Region 22 final against Mechanicsburg at Bellefontaine on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Indians, who came into the tourney as the #2 seed behind the Flyers, are another team that breezed through its schedule this year, including a 42-12 hammering of Delphos Jefferson in Sidney to improve to 12-0 at the same time Marion Local was dismissing West Liberty-Salem in Wapak.
Marion Local made a statement early, capitalizing on an interception deep in WL-S territory with six points (the PAT ricocheted wide off the upright), then scoring on a 62-yard screen pass following another interception to grab a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.
It was more of the same for the remaining three quarters, Marion Local never allowed the WL-S offense to gain any traction whatsoever, keeping the ball stuffed inside Tiger territory all night. The Tiger defense is a game and feisty bunch, but it spent most of the evening defending a short field, which is never a desirable thing against a team as good as a four-time defending state champion.
“They’ve got a great defense, that’s for sure. They send pressure that affects both your run game and your ability to protect your quarterback,” WL-S Coach Dan McGill said. “You get behind the chains against a team like that and you’re going to have trouble sustaining drives.”
The only thing flashy about the Flyers (other than their won/loss record for the past five years) is their uniforms. The nice threads aside, Marion Local may be as fundamentally sound of a high school football team that one is ever likely to see. This is not to say they don’t make mistakes – Marion Local tossed an early interception, had two long plays called back for penalties, and dropped the ball a couple of times – but you saw absolutely no ‘rattle’ in the Flyers, no confused substitutions, no flailing of arms, no desperate shouts back and forth to the sidelines, no lingering effects of what last happened, good or bad. Their collective on-field persona could be described as stoical from whistle to snap, and monstrous from snap to whistle.
“Physically, they’re a very good football team. Fundamentally, schematically, they just don’t make many mistakes,” McGill said.
The Flyers added their fourth TD of the game with no time left on the clock going into the break, taking their third pick of the half from midfield to the house as the clock moved to 0:00. Marion Local received the second half kickoff, quickly planted another touchdown on the board and started the continuous clock, which the Flyers worked to perfection by never allowing the Tigers to make a serious threat and savoring every second that ticked off the board.
Despite being ousted from the tournament by the Blue-and-Gold Dynasty, by any measure West Liberty-Salem had yet another wonderful football campaign in 2015, finishing the year with a 9-3 record. The Tigers earned this mark playing in the highly-competitive Ohio Heritage Conference.
“You never stop working and looking for things that might work. All I asked is that the kids played their absolute hardest and they did that,” McGill said. “The seniors showed great leadership in the face of adversity and as a coach I’m excited to see what they do for the rest of their lives. It’s a great group of seniors we’re saying goodbye to.”
For the Tigers, Trevor Anderson rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries, Dusty Moell had five receptions for 38 yards and quarterback Brandon Upton completed 13 of 29 pass attempts for 112 yards with three interceptions.
WL-S has won 51 regular season games over the last five years, and five playoff games in the past three, including a win 21-7 win this season in Week 11 at Cincinnati County Day.