PIQUA — Marion Local head football coach Tim Goodwin weighed his options during a time out with 1:16 left in the game, his team tied with Covington, the ball at midfield and his offense facing a fourth and 10.
Goodwin didn’t want to risk overtime against Covington running back A.J. Oullette and a Buccs triple-option offense that had bedeviled his defense all night. So he put the game in the hands of senior quarterback Adam Bertke and the offense.
“There were quite a few in the headset who wanted to punt, but I said, ‘Guys, if we punt it’s probably going to go to overtime and they’re going to get the ball in four-down territory from the 20-yard line. I don’t think we can stop them,’ Goodwin said. “We had a chance to convert a fourth and 10 and even if we didn’t, they still had to go 50 yards to beat us.’”
His gamble and trust in his offense paid off.
Bertke hit Austin Albers with a 16-yard strike to get the first down and then guided the Flyer offense down the field for a game-winning touchdown drive to give the Flyers a 35-28 win over the Buccs in a Division VII regional semifinal at Alexander Stadium in Piqua on Saturday.
Bertke connected with wideout Troy Homan on a four-yard touchdown in the left front side of the end zone with 29 seconds left to put the Flyers up for good and cap a 14-point comeback win for the two-time defending state champions.
Marion Local vs. Covington Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smeveningleader/sets/72157637805901096/show/
“We were thinking touchdown all the way,” Bertke said. “Our offense executed for the most part all night. Down the stretch they were clutch.”
Bertke went 7 of 8 passing for 72 yards on the winning drive, taking the Flyers 76 yards in just 1:16. He finished the game 16 of 28 for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
“Adam Bertke has been in huge games and this is what he lives for,” Goodwin said.
Marion Local (12-0) advances to play Triad (12-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m. Triad beat Sidney Lehman Catholic 14-7 on Saturday at Wapakoneta.
“They made plays when they had to and that’s why they are back-to-back state champs and likely will win a third,” Covington head coach Dave Miller said.
Covington lost, but earned another level of respect around the area.
“I’ve got so much respect for them,” Bertke said about Covington. “There’s been a lot of talk that they can’t compete with the MAC and they showed tonight they can compete with anybody.”
“I know the pain of losing stinks, but they have nothing to be ashamed of,” Goodwin said. “They played outstanding.”
The teams combined for only five offensive possessions in the first half, with Covington eating large chunks of clock with three time-consuming drives.
Covington scored the game’s first 14 points behind its difficult-to-defend triple option attack and the its whirling dervish of a tailback in Oullette, who ran past, around and through Flyer defenders for 230 yards and two touchdowns.
“We hadn’t seen that offense since 2009,” Goodwin said. “We worked our butts off all week trying to get our reads down. It’s just tough to stop when you don’t see it.”
Oullette busted off a 41-yard touchdown run on the fourth play from scrimmage of the game to put the Buccs up 7-0.
Covington went on a 20-play, 83-yard touchdown that spanned a good chunk of two quarters, including the first 7:07 of the second quarter. Quarterback Jared Williams ended the monster drive with a two-yard plunge on fourth and goal to put the Buccs up 14-0.
“The bottom line was they were outhitting us,” Goodwin said.
Marion Local rebounded with an 11-play 74-yard touchdown drive late in the second quarter that included two fourth down conversions and a 19-yard pass play in the right flat from Bertke to Jacy Goettemoeller that set up Bertke’s bulldozing three-yard touchdown run with 54 ticks left in the half.
Marion Local tied the game 14-14 on the second play of the second half when Bertke connected with Austin Albers on a rainbow throw down the right sideline that Albers caught for a 55-yard touchdown.
After getting a stop on defense, Marion Local scored again with a suddenly potent rushing attack. Goettemoeller broke off runs of 19 and six yards and fullback Aaron Nietfeld had big runs of 12 and a touchdown run of 19 yards that put the Flyers up 21-14.
Outllette answered right back with a 66-yard run that set up a Bobby Alexander three yard touchdown run with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
Marion Local went back up 28-21 with a Bertke to Homan eight-yard touchdown pass to cap a 55-yard touchdown drive that inlcluded a fourth down conversion at the Covington 17 yard line on a Bertke four-yard run.
Covington tied up the game to set up the game’s final drama with an Oullette 51-yard touchdown run.