SPENCERVILLE – Spencerville will be facing the past and the present when the Bearcats face Marion Local at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Piqua.
Marion Local (11-0), winners of nine state titles, has a reputation of being one of the best football programs in Ohio and this year is no different. The Flyers were ranked No. 1 in the final AP state poll at the end of the regular season.
“The reputation for them is respect,” Bearcat head coach Chris Sommers. “I have so much respect for Coach (Tim) Goodwin and what they have accomplished year in and year out. It is a credit to their kids and it is a credit to their community and you see it on tape this year.”
Sommers said he knows it will take a complete, near flawless football game to beat the Flyers who come in averaging 30 points a game but more impressive is that on defense they are giving up an average of 6.2 points a contest. The Flyers have given up 7 or less points in nine of those games and have three shutouts including two in the last two contests.
Marion Local blanked Fort Recover 27-0 in its opening playoff game. In that contest, Fort Recovery’s Will Homan, who gained 131 yards on the night, failed to hit pay dirt.
“We certainly know who we are playing and how good of a football team they are, and any time you look at that as a competitor you look at that as a great challenge and a great opportunity and the one thing we do with our team is go out and do our best and whatever happens out of that you can take a lot of pride from that,” Sommers said.
Sommers said the focus for his team going against the Flyers is to continue to get better and control the things they can control.
“We feel like there is room to grow there (on our team),” Sommers said. “The practices haven’t toned down at all and in a lot of areas I think we have increased it in getting better.”
Spencerville, with its vaunted rushing attack, ran over Mechanicsburg, led by Chris Picker’s 261 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
While the Bearcats are run heavy, Sommers does not rule out the fact that he might incorporate some passing to the offense to keep the Flyers’ defense off balanced.
“Even this late in the year you do continue to work on things and you do continue to develop things and I think from an offensive point of view we have been able to do that,” Sommers said. “But really you continue to do what you do best and what got you here and at the same time it is a good time to expand offensively and defensively.”
Marion Local comes with a well-balanced offense. Quarterback Nathan Bruns, who passed for 113 yards against Fort Recovery, has thrown for 1,618 yards and 16 touchdowns with 4 interceptions. Matt Rethman leads the team in catches with 40 for 432 yards and six touchdowns while teammates Nick Tangeman has hauled in 26 catches for 594 yards and seven touchdowns and Derek Ruhenkamp has caught 24 balls for 433 yards and three touchdowns.
Flyer Nolan Habodasz is the top ground gainer with 968 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Sommers said the key to stopping the Flyers offense is by not letting them sustain big drives.
“You just have to be able to get them off the field,” Sommers said. “You need to be able to not take 12 to 15 play drives so we need to get stops to give our offense some opportunity.”
Sommers said against Mechanicsburg the Bearcats knew they were in for a physical confrontation and countered with a strong showing of their own. The Bearcat coach added that this team seemed to hit its stride in week four and only seemed to improve up until the end of the regular season and the same hard-nosed approach carried over in the postseason.
“This is a fun group to coach and they play hard and I think they are having fun and that is really important right now as they get into the longer days of football,” Sommers said. “It is really nice to see them having fun.”