Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin was so unimpressed with the current Flyers seniors that he threatened to take a hike.
It was two seasons ago and Goodwin was livid those then-sophomores “cannot even run isolation play right,” Goodwin recalled. He targeted emerging lineman John Dirksen “because I like picking on someone who can do something about it.
“I said, I’m going to take a year’s sabbatical and hike the Appalachian Trail when you’re a senior.”
One of those eventual seniors, Thomas Ungruhn, asked Goodwin if he were glad about not keeping that promise as Marion Local celebrated yet another high school football state championship Saturday afternoon, a decisive 34-11 defeat of Kirtland that wrapped up a perfect 15-0 Flyers season.
“I guess I am,” said Goodwin, grinning.
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Unlike their matchup two years ago when Kirtland rallied to stun Marion Local and win its own D-VI state title, there would be no second-half meltdown by the Flyers at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Spotting Kirtland a 3-0 lead, Marion Local answered with 34 unanswered points with a variety of gems from its special teams, running and passing games. When they were done, the Flyers had won their second straight D-VI state title and 10th overall in the last 17 seasons, all with Goodwin at the helm.
It also was the second state championship for the Midwest Athletic Conference, following Minster’s 32-7 defeat of Cuyahoga Heights to win the D-VII state title on Friday.
That isolation play right is now just one of many productive parts of the Flyers’ offense. Junior quarterback Nathan Bruns was especially effective, completing 10 of 15 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Junior Nick Tangemen, at 6-foot-4 a mismatch for Kirtland defenders, had six catches for 120 yards, including both of Bruns’ TD tosses.
Nolan Habodasz, Jack Buening and Alex Partington all had short scoring runs. The Flyers’ defense was just as impressive, limiting the Hornets to 184 total yards.
Of the seven title games, it was the only one that featured a No. 1 (Marion Local) vs. No. 2 matchup of two undefeated teams. But that wasn’t close to the incentive the Flyers had from losing 22-20 to Kirtland in a 2015 title game. That snapped a streak of four straight state titles for Marion Local.
“Playing against a team that beat you and kind of embarrassed your program, it’s a great motivator,” assured Dirksen, a 6-6, 300-pounder who signed with the University of Notre Dame.
Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde also sensed a do-over passion by the Flyers.
“They just methodically went down the field and used their size and big backs,” he said. “They were the best team out there by far.”
It extended a dominant run that ranks among the state’s all-time best. The Flyers also were 15-0 in each of the successive 2013-14 state championship seasons. Marion Local has played in seven straight state title games, winning all but that 2015 game against Kirtland. Goodwin was asked about that.
“I don’t think about it,” he said. “On the bus ride home we think about next year.”