They started out poorly, and were down at one point 20-7. But Marion Local proved to have too many weapons – and an unstoppable aerial game – and shut out Anna in the second half to win easily.
Maria Stein – Yes, there was a point in the first fifteen minutes of Friday’s Marion Local-Anna game that had people gasping for breath in the stands at Marion’s Booster Stadium.
Anna held a 20-7 lead at 5:51 of the second quarter after tailback Riley Huelskamp scored his second touchdown of the first half from six yards out, shredding tacklers as he went.
People on the Marion side were thinking “What’s this?”
People on the Anna side were pinching themselves and saying, “Can this be true?”
Oh, it be true, alright, because Anna came out ready to play and took it to the defending champions. They scored on their opening drive (a Bart Bixler 1-yard run), and then scooped up a Matt Rethman fumble on Marion’s first play from scrimmage…and moments later went up 13-0 on Huelskamp’s first touchdown (a 13-yard run, and more shredding of tacklers).
And after Marion answered with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Nick Tangeman on their second possession to make the score 13-7, Anna hit a 50-yard bomb from Bart Bixler to Jeffrey Richards to set up their third touchdown (Huelskamp’s at 5:51).
What’s this, indeed!
But…from that point on it was Marion doing what Marion does. The Flyers rattled off 37 unanswered points over the next 29 minutes and 9 seconds to eventually win, 44-20.
Afterwards, Anna coach Nick Marino calmly nodded his approval of his team’s fast start, but came to grips quickly with the reality of what happened next.
“We got off to a good start,” he said quietly. “But from that point on we needed to play with more discipline (than we did). That’s what I told them in the huddle after the game. We have to be more disciplined.”
To his point, Marion killed them with the big play through the air – Tangeman’s 26-yard score in the first quarter.
Then, a 66-yard bomb from quarterback Nate Bruns to flanker Matt Rethman in the second quarter.
And, with two minutes left in the third quarter Bruns hooked up with Tangeman again for 31 yards and his second touchdown of the game.
In between…touchdown runs by Habodasz (a pair of them, including a 26-yarder in the third that proved to be the back-breaker).
A blast up the middle near the end of the second quarter at 52 second before the half by Brandon Fleck…that actually gave Marion the lead for the first time at 21-20.
Kicker Alex Klosterman opened the scoring in the third quarter with a 26-yard field goal.
And to finish things, Isaac Eifert added a 2-yard run with 6:29 left in the game for the 44th point. Game, set, and match!
But Anna had its highlights, and the Rockets played tough…proof that last week’s unexpected win over previously unbeaten St. Henry was no fluke. It seemed like Riley Huelskamp ran the ball a thousand times; but in reality, it was just 24 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns. And he raised some serious questions in the Marion stands as to the Flyers ability to tackle. The Rockets’ 5’10” junior is built like a fire hydrant, and just about as hard to bring down.
“He’s tough,” said Marion’s Tim Goodwin afterwards. “He’s built low to the ground, he runs hard, he’s stout and he has good vision. He’s the prototype running back for this league. And really, tonight was the first time we’ve been challenged to tackle someone like him (Huelskamp). With the way football is now you don’t really don’t tackle much in the pre-season, or at all in practice, so we haven’t been tested in terms of tackling until tonight. A lot of them had not made a high-pressure tackle until this game, so I expect a big jump in improvement from our defense from this week ’til next.”
Some numbers? Marion ran the ball 21 times for 181 yards. And Nate Bruns threw it often, and well – 10 of 17 attempts for 237 yards and three touchdowns (two to Tangeman and one to Rethman).
And Tangeman? Again he proved that if the ball is anywhere near his hands he’s going to catch it, making a pair of circus catches, and six in all for 144 yards and his two scores. His considerable height advantage (6’4″) was simply too much of a physical mismatch for the Rockets’ secondary.
“Really, I just try to get the football,” he said afterwards, failing to hide a broad smile. “Nate just puts it up there where you have a chance, and I try to go get it.”
“It’s pretty nice to have someone out there like him, with his size,” Bruns agreed. “All you gotta’ do is give him a shot at it. Hunter Wilker was good when he was here, and Hunter had the speed. But Nick catches everything.”
Total yards? Marion had 418 yards to Anna’s 242 (145 rushing and 97 through the air), and all but 21 of Anna’s rush yards belonged to the indefatigable Huelskamp.
Tim Goodwin said it as a matter of fact. It was Marion’s first physical test of the season by a team on the rise (Anna’s now 3-2), and the Flyers had to work to gain their fifth win in as many starts. It was no novelty to come out in the first five minutes of the game and be down 13-0.
“It’s happened before…we’re not perfect,” said Goodwin. “And you gotta’ give Anna credit. You know, they’ve got some good offensive players and a really good scheme. They’re smart, they know what they’re doing, and they had us on our heels for a while.”
But too many weapons, what seems to be the perennial conundrum for teams that find themselves a bit short when it comes to holding a lead, or any kind of advantage, when you play Marion Local.
“Yeah, we definitely have some guys that are tough matchups (Bruns, Tangeman, Rethman, and Habodasz), and I’m just glad they’re wearing blue and gold. Rethman and Tangeman made great catches, but Nate’s pretty much always going to give them a chance. So when you have the athletes we have out there good things are going to happen.”
On a MAC night when it seemed for a while that everything typical was about to be atypical – Fort Recovery’s game-long lead until the end over Coldwater, Parkway’s strong first half against Minster, and how the Rockets’ early glare put a scare into the hearts of the fans, if not Tim Goodwin – all three games came down to how you finish, over how you start.
Nick Marino talked about discipline, but realistically the matchups that Tim Goodwin talked about just about always trumps discipline. 6’4″ beats 5’10” every time.
And if Goodwin’s assertion about improvement between now and next week is right, that’s not just bad news for the Flyers’ next five opponents…it’s just the annual rite of passage for MAC football. Marion Local usually hits their stride after that first test.
Trust it, they were watching from Kirtland Friday night (they’re 5-0), and all other points across Division VI. Shudder the thought!