MASSILLON, Ohio - Luke Bertke's 19-yard interception return with 5:36 to play helped Marion Local win a state championship for the second year in a row with a 20-14 win over Youngstown Ursuline in the Division V final yesterday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Marion Local (15-0) extended its winning streak to 27 games and claimed its fourth state crown under coach Tim Goodwin, who improved his record at the school to 100-24. The Flyers also won back-to-back titles in 2000-01. They won the title a year ago in Division VI before moving up to Division V this season.
"It was a strange game," Goodwin said. "I don't think either team felt like they were in control.
"We were able to come up with a couple of big defensive plays and that turned it."
Ursuline quarterback Lamar McQueen, backpedaling from pressure by Bertke, passed the ball right to the 6-foot-4 junior defensive end. Bertke ran past McQueen and carried tacklers into the left corner of the end zone to put the Flyers ahead. The extra-point kick was missed.
Moments later, Bertke sacked McQueen at the Ursuline 2 for a 12-yard loss, ending any comeback attempt.
Bertke's stunning touchdown came moments after the Fighting Irish (12-3) had tied it at 14 on a 50-yard fumble recovery return by Justin Brown.
Brown stripped the ball from Flyers fullback Luke Homan and rumbled the other way with 7:37 remaining.
Ben Smith raced 68 yards down the right sidelines with the ensuing kickoff to put the Flyers at the Ursuline 15, but Brown came up big again - blocking a 28-yard field goal attempt on fourth down.
"Holy cow, what a great play by that kid," Goodwin said. "He stripped the ball from Luke and ran right over another guy like he was superman."
"Whenever we got something going, their defense came through with a big play," Ursuline coach Dan Reardon said.
"That blocked punt played a crucial role in the game."
McQueen, named the AP's co-offensive player of the year in the division earlier in the week, threw a 76-yard scoring pass to Dale Peterman to give Ursuline a 7-0 lead.
McQueen threw over the middle to Peterman, who caught the ball near midfield and outran the Flyers' defense with 11:09 left in the second quarter for the longest scoring pass play in Division V title game history.
The Flyers' defense tied it, however when Dustin Heitkamp recovered a blocked punt in the end zone 4:34 before halftime. Punter John Colla bobbled a low snap from center.
By the time Colla recovered, Greg Koesters broke through the line and blocked the kick. Heitkamp got to the ball in a scramble inches from the back of the end zone.
"I saw him fumble it, and I knew it was go time and I just got it," Koesters said.
Chris Stucke threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Alex Moeller for a 14-7 lead 1:14 before halftime.
Stucke then thwarted an Ursuline threat in the final seconds of the first half by making an interception at his 13-yard line.
Marion Local outscored opponents 602-103 and had seven shutouts this season.
Ursuline had four shutouts overall and entered the game having outscored opponents in the playoffs 131-19.