PIQUA — Marion Local kept trying to drive the stake into Minster’s heart.
That took a long time in a memorable playoff shootout on Friday between Midwest Athletic Conference rivals.
Between a 44-yard reverse pass for a touchdown, a goal line stand and a 99-yard, 14-play touchdown drive, Minster answered every call in the fourth quarter in its quest to come back from a 21-point deficit.
The Wildcats simply ran out of time. Never heart.
The Wildcats and Flyers sparred for three hours, with the defending Division VI state champion Flyers emerging from the backyard battle with a 41-34 win on Friday night at Alexander Stadium in Piqua.
Marion Local took a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to watch Minster draw to within one score in the game’s final minute with a prolific night through the air.
Minster head coach Nate Moore consoled his seniors after the game with the thought that they’d left everything on the artificial turf in Piqua.
“You couldn’t have played any harder than our kids did,” Moore said. “I’m so proud of them. We lost to one of the best teams in Division VI, if not the best. There’s no shame in that. If you have to go out, this is how you go out.”
The two teams met for the third straight year in the postseason. Marion Local has taken the last two meetings in the playoffs.
The Flyers’ power ground attack, led by the odd coupling of a towering, bruising quarterback and a pint-sized dynamo running back, made the difference.
Marion Local running back Jacy Goettemoeller scored four touchdowns and rushed for 188 yards in the win. Quarterback Adam Bertke ran for another 123 yards and a touchdown.
“This is one of the few times I’ve looked at a game and thought that both offenses had the advantage,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said. “Usually I’m dead wrong on that one, but both offenses were pretty darn good and just in the way they matched up to the opposing defenses.”
A Marion Local team that started the year looking to add some finesse to its attack in the form of the spread is closing with the typical smashmouth brand so familiar to Flyer fans.
“They’re very tough and physical up front,” Moore said.
Minster’s Adam Niemeyer went 23- of 41 passing for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Devon Poeppelman completed his one throw of the game for 44 yards and a touchdown on a trick play.
“We wanted to be as balanced we could and wanted to see how they’d defend us,” Moore said. “But you get down a couple scores and you’ve got to start throwing the football.”
Goettemoeller appeared to put the game away with less than two minutes left when he took a sweep on a 4th and 1 for 41 yards around right end for a touchdown to give the Flyers a 41-27 lead with 1:48 left in the game.
Had Goettemoeller not scored, Marion Local could’ve run out the clock.
“Once I scored it occurred to me,” Goettemoeller said with a chuckle. “I was just thinking of going, scoring.”
That gave Minster another chance.
The Wildcats moved the ball down field and Niemeyer hit Ethan Wolf with a two-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left left to draw Minster within seven.
Minster’s onside kick was grabbed by the Flyers and Marion Local took two knees to advance for a regional championship match-up with another MAC rival in St. Henry next Friday at a site to be determined.
“We obviously wish we would’ve finished better, but a win’s a win,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said. “Now we’re going to work on kickoffs and all that crap....We need to credit Minster. They never quit. They have great skill with their quarterback and receivers. Our secondary is three sophomores and ajunior going against their three seniors and a stud junior. Our kids battled and came out ahead.”
Marion Local probably thought they’d finished off Minster a couple times in the fourth quarter.
Marion Local went up 35-14 on an Adam Bertke 10-yard run with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter.
With its back to the wall, Minster came back with a big return by Korey Schultz to the Marion Local 45-yard line. Three plays later Minster went deep into the playbook for a reverse pass. Niemeyer handed the ball to Poeppelman on a reverse, who threw the ball perfectly to a spot in the end zone 44 yards away into the arms of Jay Eilerman. Misnter drew to within 35-20.
Minster got the ball back after a bizzare onside kick recovery. Minster’s onside kick did not go the requisite 10 yards and both teams stood around the ball as it came to a rest. A Flyer came in and tried to scoop up the ball but could not get a grip on it. It squirted away and Minster got the ball back at midfield.
Minster fumbled the ball away three plays later, however, as Poeppelman was fighting for extra yardage on a third and four reception in Marion Local territory.
The Minster defense then put up a stand at the goal line to keep its hopes alive. Marion Local drove down inside the Minster five yard line. On fourth and goal from the one yard line with about 5:30 left in the game, Marion Local went for it. Bertke called his own number up the middle on a sneak, but Minster had a handful of players jumping to meet him and turn him back.
Minster got the ball back at the half yard line, down by 15, with 5:26 left in the game.
The Wildcats drove the field in stunning fashion, throwing out of their own end zone for 26 yards to Devon Poeppelman down the left sideline. On fourth and two and the game in the balance at the Marion Local 22 yard line, Niemeyer hit Poeppelman for six yards to move the chains.
An 18-yard pass to Wolf down to the three yard line set up Niemeyer’s three-yard slant pass to Poeppelman to draw Minster to within 35-27 with 2:20 left.
Marion Local’s Goettemoeller started off the scoring. He caught a pass in the left flat, stopped on a dime on the artificial turf near the sideline and knifed into the end zone to finish off the 43-yard score.
“I was going down the sideline and saw the defenders keep going, so I just cut it back and saw blockers coming for me so I could score,” Goettemoeller said.
Minster answered back quickly with a big return by Kauffman and a 31 yard touchdown run by Korey Schultz to tie the game, 7-7.
Goettemoeller wwent off right tackle for his second touchdown of the night to give Marion Local a 14-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
After Minster’s 12-play drive died on an incompletion on fourth and two at the Marion Local 26-yard line, the Flyers marched down the field in 10 plays. Fullback Alaric Keller capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to give the Flyers a 21-7 lead with 2:29 left in the half.
Minster went into the locker room with a shot in the arm with a perfectly executed two-minute drill. Adam Niemeyer hit on 6-of-11 passes for 75 yards. The biggest was a fourth and two conversion, a six-yard touchdown from Niemeyer to Ethan Wolf on a drag route across the middle with less than 30 seconds left in the half.
Marion Local led 21-14 at the half.
Minster couldn’t take advantage of what looked like a key interception early in the third quarter by Korey Schultz. He picked off Bertke with 11:07 left in the third quarter.
But Marion Local’s Goettemoeller stepped in front of a Niemeyer post pattern near the goal line on the very next play.
Marion Local upped its lead to 28-14 later in the quarter with an eight-play drive that included eight runs, including a one-yard score by Goettemoeller in which he leapt over the offensive line and into the end zone.