WAPAKONETA — When it came to crunch time, Marion Local went back to the brand of football that has helped it win five state championships since 2000.
The Flyers lined up in double tight-end formations and ran out of the ‘I’ in the third overtime and turned it into a Jacy Goettemoeller 7-yard touchdown run as Marion Local upended McComb 34-28 in a Division VI state semifinal at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field.
Marion Local (12-2) will attempt to defend its Division VI championship from a year ago when the Flyers face Newark Catholic (12-2), a 38-21 winner over Mogadore, at 11 a.m. Friday in Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Marion Local, ranked No.7 in the final AP poll, will pursue its sixth state title.
“We were searching for straws,” said Marion coach Tim Goodwin. “We could not get anything going consistently against them in the second half.”
The Flyers were consistent in the third OT after they had snuffed out McComb’s possession when Adam Bertke broke up a pass in the end zone. Behind the stacked line, Goettemoeller went left for six yards and followed it with two straight pitch sweeps to the right for the score.
“Our motto all year has been 720 minutes,” said McComb coach Kris Alge, referring to the length of play in the state championship game. “We came close.
“These kids are fighters. We fought Delphos St. John’s last week to come back and win. The kids just keep fighting. They were real close to reaching that goal.”
McComb fought an uphill battle on its third OT possession. On the first play, the Panthers (13-1) were called for pass interference. That pushed McComb back and cost them a down. “They said we got a piece of the kid and called an illegal pick,” Alge said.
McComb quarterback Dalton Buck, who was 30-of-48 passing for 348 yards, hooked up with Jerry Brown for 12 yards. A one-yard pass set up fourth-and-12 at the 22. But Buck’s fourth-down pass into the end zone was batted down by Bertke.
Neither team managed a score in the first OT. Marion Local had the ball to start the second overtime period and Goettemoeller tallied on a 14-yard pitch sweep to the right. Goettemoeller had 48 yards at the half, but only one second-half yard before that TD. He finished with 76 yards on 20 carries.
McComb answered while facing a fourth-and-one from the 11. Brown lined up at QB in the Wildcat. After receiving the snap, he took one step forward before tossing a TD pass to Clay Dysert. McComb seemed down and out at the half with just 77 yards and facing a 21-0 deficit.
But the Panthers went to the no-huddle, hurry-up offense to rack up the second half yards. Brown scored on an 8-yard run out of a stacked ‘I’ with 4 minutes, 37 seconds left in the third. McComb had to punt and turned the ball over on Buck’s third interception on its next two possessions. But with 4:58 left, the Panthers regained possession. Buck hit Brown in stride for an 88-yard catch-and-run score to pull with 21-14.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Panthers took over with 3:10 left at their own 32. Buck was 4-of-6 passing on the game-tying drive for 49 yards and he ran for four more. The senior quarterback hit Cody Wilson on a 15-yard post pattern for the tying score with 1:51 left. McComb also benefitted from a facemask penalty on the drive.
Buck threw for 286 second-half yards and Brown finished the night with 11 catches for 178 yards. Dysert had 84 yards receiving and Wilson 61.
“I think the tempo helped Buck in the second half. We were too fancy trying to run the ball the first half,” Alge said. “We practice every day like we played in the second half and that tempo helped him.”
The Panthers had to do something after a first-half turnover fest as each team turned the ball over three times. Where McComb was unable to take advantage of the miscues, Marion Local did. Bertke returned a Buck pass 28 yards for a score just under six minutes into the game.
A fumbled McComb snap turned into a Flyers’ highlight reel TD catch early in the second.