WAPAKONETA — Marion Local sophomore running back Jacy Goettemoeller fumbled away the Flyers’ first offensive snap on Friday against St. Henry. In the fourth quarter Goettemoeller scored a gamewinner by turning a 2nd and 31 draw play into a breathtaking 76-yard touchdown.
The Flyers are living and dying with a group of greenhorns.
The peachfuzz Flyers, who have just five seniors, defended four potential game-tying passes into their own end zone in the final minute to hold off St. Henry’s furious fourth-quarter rally and win a Division VI regional championship, 28-21, on Friday night at Harmon Field in Wapakoneta.
“We’re back in the state semifinals with a team that only has five seniors,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said. “I’m excited. Our guys make mistakes. They screw up. But, goshdang, they’re sophomores.”
Sophomores two wins from earning the program’s sixth state title.
Marion Local keeps alive its hopes of defending its Division VI state title and will now play McComb, which ousted Delphos St. John’s from the playoffs with a 28-21 win on Friday night. That state semifinal tilt will be played at site to be determined by the OHSAA on Sunday.
The Flyers (11-2) took the best shot from another MAC rival for the second straight week after they took a three-score lead by scoring 28 straight points. Last week, Marion Local went up 21 points only to watch Minster get to within seven points. On Friday, Marion Local seemed to ice the game on Jacy Goettemoeller’s 76-yard touchdown run on a second and 31 that gave the Flyers a 28-7 lead.
“I don’t have a second and 31 play on my sheet,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said. “So we thought we’d give it to the kid who can make guys miss in the open field.”
Goettemoeller had been bottled up for the first three quarters, rushing the ball 13 times for 56 yards with a fumble on Marion Local’s first offensive play from scrimmage that set up an early St. Henry touchdown. He changed a frustrating night into a big one with the long run and a strong fourth quarter. Goettemoeller finished the game with 155 yards on 20 carries.
All that youth playing at so many positions for the Flyers has a downside, though. They’ve struggled to put teams away in the fourth quarter the past two weeks.
St. Henry came right back with a five-play touchdown drive with 6-foot-4 senior quarterback Kyle Stahl going 4-for-5 for 66 yards, including a 20-yard strike to Tyler Schwieterman with 9:06 left in the game that made it 28-14.
St. Henry then got a stop after Marion Local bled about four minutes off the clock with three first downs.
St. Henry marched down the field 65 yards after Stahl went 4-for-7 for all 65 yards, with a key 33-yard reception by Jordan Bender on a ball put up for grabs down the right side. Bender wrestled the ball from Marion Local safety Adam Bertke for a 33-yard gain to the Flyer 15 yard line. Two plays later Stahl threw a dart to Jeff Paul on a slant for a 10-yard touchdown. The score narrowed to 28-21 with 2:29 left in the game.
After a St. Henry onside kick attempt sailed out of bounds, St. Henry got a stop and got the ball back with 1:17 left and needing to drive 84 yards for a tying score. St. Henry quarterback Kyle Stahl delivered. After two passes picked up a first down, Stahl lofted up a pass to a wide open Matt Osterholt on a wheel route down the left sideline. Osterholt cut across the field and ran 53 yards down to the Marion Local 18 yard line with just over a minute left.
St. Henry took four shots into the end zone, including a fourth down fade pass for Bender in the right back corner of the end zone that got batted down to seal the Marion Local victory.
“We had our backs to the wall against a Division I quarterback in Kyle Stahl, who is accurate as heck,” Goodwin said. “We didn’t put our heads down and give up.”
Stahl had a slow start to the game, completing eight of his first 15 passes for 54 yards. Marion Local frustrated him early in the game by batting down and deflecting numerous passes.
“That was a big part of our gameplan,” Goodwin said. “He catches that shotgun snap and boom the ball is out. We worked on our defensive line reading his drops. We got our hands on some tonight and that was important, but I wish we’d gotten our hands on a few more.”
That’s because Stahl closed the game on fire. He completed 12 of his last 16 passes and finished the game 20 of 31 for 294 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The loss ended St. Henry’s season of revival. After winning three games in 2010 and then just one game in 2011, the Redskins won seven games during the regular season and were a game away from the final four.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys,” St. Henry Head Coach Jeff Starkey said. “We’ve won four games the last two seasons and we were playing for a shot to go to state. We ran out of time and played a great opponent.”
Goettemoeller coughed up the football early in the first quarter, setting up an Adam Reichert four-yard touchdown run with 6:22 left in the first quarter for St. Henry to go up, 7-0.
Marion Local responded with a methodical 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that saw the Flyers run the ball eight times. Fullback Alaric Keller finished off the drive by plowing in from one yard out to tie the game, 7-7.
Marion Local took a 14-7 lead to the half after the Flyers drove 66 yards on eight plays early in the second quarter. Adam Bertke was key in the drive, going 2-for-2 passing on the drive with a 29-yard pass to Goettemoller and an 11-yard strike to Hunter Wilker that set up a twisting, churning seven-yard touchdown run by Bertke with 8:43 left in the second quarter.
St. Henry missed a 36-yard field goal in the final minutes of the second quarter to send the game to the half with the Flyers leading, 14-7.
Marion Local scored its third touchdown just five snaps into the second half. A big kickoff return by Goettemoeller set up the Flyers at the St. Henry 33 yard line. Goettemoeller finished off the drive with a five-yard touchdown up the gut untouched to put Marion Local up, 21-7.
St. Henry twice drove the ball deep into Marion Local’s side of the field in the third quarter, only to be turned back on a fourth and sixth at the Flyer 25 yard line when Adam Reichert was tackled by a shoestring two yards short of the first down. Then later in the quarter St. Henry’s Stahl was sacked on a fourth and seven. Stahl appeared to get out of the grasp of a Flyer defender and dump the ball off to Reichert, who would’ve had the first down. But the officials blew the play dead, leading to a second straight turnover on downs deep in Flyer territory.
Marion Local quarterback Adam Bertke was 6-of-10 passing for 93 yards and an interception. Bertke ran 14 times for 56 yards and a touchdown.