He’ll tell you he’d rather be hitting people on defense. But Marion’s Duane Leugers is also the most capable candidate to assume football’s most important offensive position on one of the state’s most anticipated teams.
Maria Stein – He didn’t ask for, or lobby, for the position. In fact, Duane Leugers (pronounced “Ligers”, as in tigers) will tell you he’d just as soon be playing somewhere in his team’s secondary on defense. He’ll tell you…he likes to hit people!
But by fate, perhaps, he’s also the most capable candidate to play starting quarterback for the Marion Local Flyers come next Friday’s season opener against Chaminade-Julienne. And as fate usually offers, the Flyers will again open the season as one of Ohio’s most anticipated high school football teams.
It wasn’t scripted that way. It wasn’t planned. In a perfect world sophomore Nathan Bruns would have assumed the position from graduated starter Cole Griesdorn. Bruns, a rangy sophomore with size and a strong throwing arm, is currently on the ‘PUP’ list, physically unable to perform due to an ACL injury.
But football is rarely perfect, which put coach Tim Goodwin in a familiar position of surveying his 75-man roster (and yes, 75 in Division VI), to find the right alternative for perfection. Not surprising, it turned out to be Leugers, who started nearly half of last year’s games on a 13-2 team that finished runner-up to eventual state champion Kirtland.
“Even before Nathan got hurt it was apparent that Duane was probably the best candidate to be our quarterback this year. This guy’s too good. He’s smart, he’s a good leader, he runs well and he has a strong throwing arm. He’s always been the ‘athlete’ in his class, all the way through, and we try to pick the best one in each class to get them ready.
“Obviously, you’d like to have multiple years out of your starting quarterback, because every time we’ve had that situation of a second year starting it’s been night and day. And I think it’ll be that way with Duane because he played so much last year. He started about half of our games, and I think of him as a returning starter because he’s confident, he knows what we want, he knows where the ball should go. He looks like a returning starter.”
He does look the part, albeit in Goodwin’s words…he’s a bit vertically challenged. At 5’10” and 170 pounds he’s far from the former Adam Bertke prototype on a state championship team that can scan the field from an elevated view – a team that’s won four of the last five state titles in either Division VI or VII.
But he’s muscular. He’s done his time in the weight room, chiseled top to bottom.
His has a fighter’s jaw, a strong countenance at first glance that tells you he asks no quarter, nor gives any, either. Competitively, they don’t come more basic.
He’ll tell you that his priorities outside of football are just as basic. His favorite food…steak. His favorite music group…Florida-Georgia Line. His favorite activity…WORK! If you have grain that needs shoveling in the agricultural Marion community, call him. If you have something that needs moved, he’s up for that, too. Anything to stay busy and active.
And he’ll share, too, that in four years and three previous trips to the state Final Four he’s hardly spoken, one-on-one, with the media. No reason for self-aggrandizing. Just play the game, and take care of the basics.
His stats from a year ago are telling, but not overwhelming. The Flyers just happened to win when he played quarterback. A last-second field goal by Coldwater and a crushing second half collapse in the title game against Kirtland were the only blemishes on their record. And Leugers didn’t start at quarterback in either.
Now, in his senior season, he sees opportunity at hand to direct a stacked lineup…skill positions, running back, defense, and interior lines. It’s all there for a redemptive effort.
“I’m pretty confident about this,” he shared about playing the position after a practice this week. “It’s one of those things where the coaches put it on me and I just go out there and do my best.”
His best attributes as a quarterback?
“Probably as a runner,” he confesses. “Throwing’s alright, but I probably like running better. We’ve been throwing the ball a lot in practice so far, but Marion Local football has always been about running the ball and we work on different attributes that help us do both.”
Plain and simple, they never need motivation at Marion. Eight titles in fourteen years under Tim Goodwin is motivation, or expectation, enough.
But the manner in which they lost a 20-7 lead in the second half of last year’s title game to Kirtland has had a lingering impact on Leugers and his teammates, something that he still can’t explain, and something he never got comfortable with over the off-season.
“It’s something that sat in the back of our minds all winter,” he explains. “You can’t do anything about it now, but it is motivation to get back and earn some revenge.”
And to earn that revenge they’ll have to withstand the perennial gauntlet, of course, that is MAC football, irrespective of changes in traditional rivals.
“This league’s always tough,” says Leugers, sounding like his head coach with a respectful tone. “Coldwater lost a lot of people but they’re always going to be good. Ft. Recovery has a lot of people back with their quarterback, running back and returning starters. There’ll always be a big challenge in our league.”
But lest it sounds too pat for Duane Leugers, too perfect in terms of assuming the reins and just riding the horse, he goes through camp and scrimmages like a caged animal. Defense is his first love, and with a shortage of capable, experienced candidates to play quarterback, Tim Goodwin is not about to let him return to his most natural position.
“He’s probably the best secondary player we had last year, playing at safety,” says Goodwin. “But we can’t afford to put him back there now. I mean, anything can happen in football. He could step off a curb and get hurt, but we’re going to be selective about having him play defense.”
Smiling at the irony of his statement, Goodwin adds, “But he is a natural defender.”
In the meantime he’ll console himself with handing off to a stable of impressive running backs…Jack Homan, Henry Keller, and Nate Moeller. He has the typical complement of Marion receivers with which to throw…Matt Kahlig, Ryan Thobe, and tight end Tyler Mescher. There’s an experienced defense and an offensive line that’s anchored by Division I college prospect, junior John Dirkson. All 6’5” and 285 pounds of him.
So the bad news for MAC opponents, and for Division VI post-season wanne-be’s across the state: Duane Leugers is the typical Marion example of a good situation getting better…when your best defensive player makes your team even better on offense.
Just because he can!