WAPAKONETA — It took a little while for Marion Local’s defensive unit to adjust to Lima Central Catholic’s offensive scheme.
But once the Flyers got it figured out, LCC found itself trying to climb back into the game as Marion Local pulled away for a 33-17 victory in Friday’s Division VI, Region 24 semifinal at Harmon Field.
With the win, Marion Local (11-1) will face Midwest Athletic Conference rival Coldwater in a regional championship game Friday at a site to be determined. During the regular season, Coldwater knocked off Marion Local, 26-20 in double overtime.
Friday night, Coldwater defeated St. Henry 20-19 in a regional semifinal.
Early on Friday night, LCC’s misdirection plays kept Marion Local’s defense at bay. The T-Birds led early, 7-6.
However, once Marion Local made adjustments, defensively, and then its offensive unit got on track, the T-Birds (9-2) were forced to play from behind.
Marion Local’s offense was balanced. Quarterback Nathan Bruns was 14 of 23 passing for 256 yards and three touchdowns.
On the ground, the Flyers churned out 188 yards. Nolan Hobodasz led the way with 71 yards on 20 carries and a TD.
However, LCC still managed to roll up 240 yards on the ground. The T-Birds were led by sophomore running back Shaun Thomas (19 carries, 147 yards).
“I thought our kids played hard,” LCC coach Scott Palte said. “We made some plays. Obviously, we didn’t make enough to win, but we’re proud of our guys. We started five sophomores on defense tonight. We only have five seniors on our roster. Our young guys battled. They weren’t intimidated. They played their hearts out. We just didn’t have enough.”
After a three-and-out by LCC to start the game, Marion Local took over and promptly drove 98 yards on 11 plays to get on the scoreboard. Bruns found Nick Tangeman (six catches, 93 yards) open for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Flyers a quick 6-0 lead.
However, LCC redeemed itself on its very next possession.
The T-Birds traveled 61 yards on five plays. Quarterback Nevan Stolly (6 of 11 passing, 94 yards) found Shaun Thomas open in the secondary and Thomas went 49 yards for pay dirt. With the point after by Ron Banks, LCC led 7-6, with less than a minute left in the first quarter. That one-point lead for the T-Birds held up until the end of the first quarter.
The Flyers responded.
Just moments into the second quarter, Bruns found a streaking Matt Rethman (six catches, 131 yards) open in the secondary, and Rethman traveled 66 yards for the TD. With the point after by Alex Klosterman, the Flyers led 13-7.
LCC had an answer.
With 8:58 left to play in the first half, a 27-yard field goal by Banks cut the Marion Local lead to 13-10.
Marion Local came roaring back on its next possession and drove 59 yards on seven plays to extend its lead to 20-10 with 5:28 left in the first half. Rethman capped off the quick scoring drive with a 2-yard run.
The Flyers were not done.
Right before the halftime break, Marion Local mounted a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Bruns found Tangeman open for a 20-yard scoring strike. With the point after, the Flyers took a 27-10 lead into the locker room.
In the first half, Bruns was 10 of 15 passing for 195 yards and three TDs.
“We hit some big pass plays in that first half,” Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. “We scored late in the first half, which turned out to be pretty big. We just kept working. They’re a good team and they have some good misdirection. We don’t see that scheme much. So, it’s tough to simulate in practice.”
LCC cut the deficit to 27-17 five minutes into the third quarter on a 5-yard run by Rossy Moore (12 carries, 46 yards). Moore’s TD run capped off an 8-play, 76-yard scoring drive. Marion Local’s 10-point lead held up to the end of the third quarter.
A little more than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Marion Local extended its lead to 16 on a 1-yard plunge by Habodasz. That TD run capped off a 65-yard, 11-play scoring drive for the Flyers.
“We made enough plays, offensively, and we made a few stops defensively, when we needed to,” Goodwin said. “LCC has some talent and they did some good things against us. But we’re still playing next week. That’s the important part.”
With the big rematch with Coldwater lurking around the corner, Goodwin is sticking with his normal approach.
“We pretty much keep it the same (each game),” Goodwin said. “This week will be like a regular-season game in the MAC. There will be a lot on the line. So, it will be a fun week.”
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