Story and photos by Ryan Isley
CANTON, Ohio — Dominant. That’s the word that comes to mind when talking about Marion Local.
It doesn’t matter if the conversation is pertaining to the last 10 years, this season or the Division VII state championship game Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, where the Flyers defeated Newark Catholic 42-7.
Marion Local has won seven state titles in the last 10 years and now holds the state record with 12 overall state championships, a tie the Flyers broke with St. Ignatius on Saturday.
“I grew up going to all of these games when I was little, so I know the history,” Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. “It is cool as heck that we are part of it.”
As for the season, the Flyers did something no other team in school history had ever done (or had the chance to do) because of the expanded playoffs — they finished a season 16-0.
“We talked about that this week,” Goodwin said. “It’s kind of hard for us to do something we have never done before. We have never gone 16-0 before, and we wanted to do that.”
When it came to Saturday’s state championship game, Marion Local dominated both sides of the ball. The Flyers had 350 yards of total offense compared to just 129 for Newark Catholic.
While the run game wasn’t as effective as Marion Local would have liked early on, despite a 24-yard touchdown run by Darren Meier, the Flyers adjusted and went to the air game.
Quarterback Peyton Otte threw two touchdown passes to Brady Ronnebaum in the first quarter. Otte then ended the first half with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Marion Local a 28-7 halftime lead.
The Flyers came out of the half wanting to get back to running the ball and did so on its first drive of the third quarter.
The Flyers ran the ball on six of the seven plays and gained 71 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown run by Otte that made it 35-7.
“We weren’t happy at half,” Otte said. “Our offense hadn’t been doing what we have been doing all year — like running the ball the way we have been. We wanted to come out and control the line of scrimmage and run downhill and play Flyer football.”
The Flyers finished with 150 yards rushing, led by Otte with 65 yards on 13 carries and Meier with 55 yards on 19 carries. Otte also completed 13 of his 18 pass attempts for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense sacked Newark Catholic quarterback Cole Canter three time and intercepted two passes.
Newark Catholic had only one drive that gained more than 25 yards (a 56-yard drive that ended with a Canter touchdown pass to Mason Hackett) and gained less than 10 yards on seven of its 11 drives.
“We have physical guys, and we have a good scheme,” Goodwin said. “We can rush when we want to rush and defend when we want to defend, and if they are hurting us, we have answers. Our kids are confident, so they just go out there and play hard.”
That word “physical” comes up any time you start to talk about why Marion Local has been so dominant, whether on defense or offense.
“I like physical football,” Goodwin said. “Some teams try to come and make it a finesse game, and we make sure we show up and make sure it’s a football game.”
While some teams have started to transform more into a wide-open spread offense, Marion Local prefers to remain physical and stay true to who they are.
They might not get the athletes who can spread the field and throw the ball all over, but they have a certain type of kid in what Goodwin calls a “blue-collar, physical” community.
“How many teams are here that are spreading it out and just throwing it all the time, and do they win?” Goodwin said. “Some years you can do that because you have the athletes, but you don’t always have those athletes. You can show up and put hard-nosed kids out there every time, so that’s what we do.”
It’s a community that showed up in force Saturday to root on their local heroes, despite the three-hour drive.
“The community comes out and it is just awesome,” Otte said. “It wouldn’t be the same without our community. They love football, and they just love the Flyers.”
And those fans just might have been hungrier this year, as Marion Local didn’t make it to the state championship game last year for the first time since 2010. The players definitely felt more ready to win it all this year after losing in the regional final.
“Last year was a super humbling experience not winning,” Otte said. “We were even more driven to win it this year.”
Seven titles in 10 years. A perfect season with 16 wins, the most in school history. A 42-7 win in the state championship game. Add it all up and it equals domination.
But don’t expect to get all the secrets to sustained success from its head coach.
“You would have to pay me a lot of money to tell you all of that,” Goodwin said.