Marion Local found its mojo just in time to remind surging Anna that even grounded…the Flyers are always up for a challenge.
Anna – Frankly, the hopeful, surging-of-late Anna Rockets could not have started worse.
Fresh off an impressive victory last Saturday night against another resurrected MAC power, Delphos St. John, Anna took the opening kick in their showdown with Marion Local Friday and had more penalties than yards in their first series on offense.
Worse, on fourth down and in the shadow of their own goal line, Austin Fogt had a punt blocked by Marion’s Lance Brunswick. The ball ricocheted straight up in the air, Anna’s Wyatt Bensman fell on it at the five yard line…and well, that’s where the Marion Local Flyers set up shop, and it set the tone for the rest of the game.
A moment later Nate Moeller ran it in from a yard out for the Flyers, and from that point on it was a call to circle the wagons.
In a 41-0 whitewashing of the Rockets on their own homecoming night, there was no dancing and the suddenly resurgent Flyers came out like they intended to make the queen’s crown fit crooked, as well. They came to play, they attacked Anna’s wounded offense on defense, and left no doubt that the passion was back in Marion football, a concern for coach Tim Goodwin after last week’s lackluster win over Versailles. At least for a week!
On a greasy-slick field that held every drop of an afternoon deluge, footing was teacherous and offensively the Rockets simply couldn’t get out of their backfield. But Marion’s defense had a say in that, as well.
Subbing for injured Travis Meyer at quarterback, Colin Wuebker fed teammate Aidan Endsley a steady diet of running plays only to have Endsely steadily run into the waiting arms of Marion’s defensive front and accompanying linebackers. The Rockets could not move the football and Fogt kept losing ground and field position in the exchange of possession through punts.
After their opening score, the Flyers rang the bell on their next possession when quarterback Duane Leugers ran it in from 22 yards out…on fourth down!
With 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter Leugers connected with Nate Moeller for his second touchdown, a 15-yard pass to make the score 20-0.
At the 9:08 mark of the second Leugers struck again from 10 yards out to wide receiver Matt Kahlig…27-0.
And with exactly 2:00 remaining before halftime fullback Jack Homan rumbled home from 5 yards out to make it 34-0.
Marion quickly scored in the third quarter, Leugers again on a short run to close the scoring at 41-0, and from that point on the game reverted to a running clock and a show of fraternal football mercy as both teams subbed and got out of the slop and gloom as soon as possible.
Marion improved to 5-1; Anna dropped to 4-2.
But the game was about more than the typical challenge of Goodwin and the Flyers, their legacy of eight state titles, and next man up willing to challenge. At 4-1 Anna has played impressively. There are athletes in Nick Marino’s lineup, and Friday represented an opportunity to show more than the eventual score indicated.
Missing, to be fair, was Travis Meyer, who left the Delphos game last week with a knee injury. His status is undetermined, and his absence understandably limited the Rockets’ options on offense.
But for the question of an infusion of passion back in the Marion ‘mojo’, Tim Goodwin was frank…it had been the focus of their practices all week.
“We had a great week of practice,” said Goodwin afterwards. “And yes, passion was the point of emphasis. We came out tonight and took a step forward. It was fun to prepare for them because of their record, because of where we were and what we wanted to do, and Anna was the perfect team for us to play. They were a team that looked good on film and presented a challenge.
“Unfortunately it was tough for them tonight because they had to play without their quarterback, and we’ve been there and done that ourselves.”
But was it enough to relieve any questions about Marion being that same team about which Goodwin had said, “I like my team”, after their impressive opening showing against Chaminade six weeks ago?
“No,” added Goodwin. “Because you’re only as good as your last game. But this is something to build on. I’ve said it repeatedly, our team was playing good, but it wasn’t playing great. Our defense has not been creating turnovers. Our passing game wasn’t crisp. We’ve got to get better there. And our special teams haven’t been very good for us, either.”
And in fact the Flyers did take some steps forward. The defense did create three turnovers on the night, setting up three scores, and making homecoming an empty experience for Rockets’ coach Nick Marino.
“It wasn’t a fun night, obviously,” said Marino. “From my standpoint I take the blame. We’ve got to get things fixed and be ready to go again next week. But tonight…we got our butts kicked.”
Statistically, Marion collected 315 yards of total offense, and a lot…and I mean a lot of it came on the ground. They didn’t throw it much, but they didn’t have to. Traps and counters and right up the gut…the combination of Nate Moeller (93 yards), Leugers (42 yards) and Jack Homan (60 yards) set the stage for everything Marion was able to do. As a complement Matt Rethman and Henry Keller ran well in limited action in the second half…clock-killing efficiency.
In the locker room Leugers smiled at the turnaround since last week, and admitted that it had been a better week of practice and anticipation for a respected opponent.
“He (Goodwin) made it a point all week in practice. We had to play with passion and be willing to run through a wall,” smile Leugers. “He kept telling us that there was a difference between being good and being great. Good’s alright, but to be great you gotta’ run through that wall. That was the point of emphasis all week, and that was the point of emphasis tonight.”
It’s now exactly three weeks since huge right tackle and team leader John Dirksen was lost for the year with a broken leg. Has the devastation of mind begun to subside for Leugers and his teammates?
“It’s a big difference not having John in the lineup because he’s so big and you count on running behind him,” added Leugers. “You didn’t expect that to happen to someone like John, but we’re beyond that now, our line’s gotten used to it, they’re picking it up and doing a great job.”
As evidenced by the 250 yards rushing at Anna’s expense Friday. It was a return to a familiar form. Marion looking like Marion at the expense of another would-be MAC contender making a bid…to look like Marion.
Easier said than done, of course. And if you’re going to do it you’d better do it with passion. You can’t be Marion without it.
Even if…you’re Marion!