The success of Midwest Athletic Conference high school football is well documented. Unlike most other locales, few peewee feeder programs, barely a hint of competing soccer and no transfers are just some of the head-scratching reasons the 10-team affiliation has separated itself as Ohio’s small-school best.
And no team does it better than Marion Local.
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The Flyers’ numbers are staggering. Marion Local has played in seven straight state championships, winning six. Three of those title teams were 15-0, including last season’s Division VI champs.
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Marion Local is 98-7 in that title-seeking span, brings a 27-game win streak into the season opener and has mounted a 15-game MAC win streak.
In D-VI, the road to a football state title runs through the rural farming community of Maria Stein in Mercer County. “Good mix coming back with enough open spots to keep it interesting,” said veteran Flyers coach Tim Goodwin, in his 21st season.
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The following are five things to know about MAC football.
Teams/coaches: Anna (7-4, 5-3; D-V, Region 18), Nick Marino (4th season); Coldwater (9-4, 6-2; D-VI, Region 24), Chip Otten (9th season); Delphos St. John’s (8-5, 4-4; D-VII, Region 28), Todd Schulte (21st season); Fort Recovery (6-5, 5-3; D-VI, Region 24), Brent Niekamp (14th season); Marion Local (15-0, 8-0; D-VI, Region 24), Tim Goodwin (21st season);
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Minster (11-4, 4-4; D-VII, Region 28), Geron Stokes (6th season); New Bremen (3-7, 1-7; D-VII, Region 28), Chris Schmidt (4th season); Parkway (1-9, 0-8; D-VI, Region 24), Rob “Dusty” Rutledge (1st season); St. Henry (6-4, 4-4; D-VI, Region 24), Brad Luthman (6th season); Versailles (4-6, 3-5; D-V, Region 18), Brad Miller (7th season).
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What to know: The MAC placed three teams in the Divisions V, V-I and V-II state finals from 2014-16, but was limited to Marion Local and D-VII state champ Minster last season. More than likely, that’s because Coldwater was lumped with Marion Local in D-VI following the debut of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance.
Until then, Coldwater had played in eight straight D-V state title games, winning four. The Cavs have qualified to the postseason the previous 21 seasons.
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• Coldwater will host defending D-IV state runner-up Clinton-Massie (13-2) in Week 2. Last year Coldwater lost at Massie, 24-14.
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• None of the MAC teams switched divisions following the revised competitive balance count last spring. Versailles was the only team to change in region, going from D-V, Region 20 to Region 18.
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• Thanks to the MAC schedule rotation, it doesn’t get any better than Marion Local at Coldwater in the Week 10 regular-season finale. The Flyers won the Week 3 showdown last season 13-7 and blanked the Cavs 33-0 in a D-VI, Region 24 final.
Although unlikely, it’s possible these rivals could be paired in a playoff opener after that Week 10 matchup.
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• Minster proved there’s always postseason life to look forward to. The Wildcats were 3-4 and had lost four straight MAC games last season. But coach Geron Stokes’ team won out, allowing just 14 points over the final three playoff games and bopping Cuyahoga Heights 32-7 in the D-VII state championship.
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• Todd Schulte of Delphos St. John’s and Goodwin are the MAC’s senior coaches, each entering their 21st season. Rob “Dusty” Rutledge of Parkway is the only first-year coach. He succeeds Shane Wellman, who lasted a pair of one-win seasons.
Rutledge is a Parkway grad who gave up a successful collegiate assistant coaching career (West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona) to reboot the Panthers.
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• MAC teams have won 33 state football championships.
Key returning offensive players:
• Nate Bruns, sr., QB, Marion Local.
• Cody Frericks, sr., WR, Minster.
• Brandon Heitkamp, sr., TE, New Bremen.
• Louden Keihl, sr., OL, Versailles.
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• Caden Niekamp, sr., OL, St. Henry.
• Clay Schmitz, so., QB, Fort Recovery.
• Ben Wenning, sr., RB/WR, Coldwater.
• Jacob Wenning, sr., WR, Coldwater.
• Jared Wurst, sr., QB, Delphos St. John’s.
Key returning defensive players:
• Spencer Alig, jr., LB, New Bremen.
• August Boehnlein, sr., LB, Minster.
• Evan Hiestand, sr., DL, Versailles.
• Sam Huelsman, sr., LB, Marion Local.
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• Jay Knapke, sr., DB, St. Henry.
• Lucas Metcalfe, sr., LB, Delphos St. John’s.
• Justin Schwieterman, sr., DB, Coldwater.
• Kaden Will, sr., LB, Fort Recovery.
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Week 1 games: All at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 unless otherwise noted. Anna at Fenwick, Coldwater at Kenton, Delphos St. John’s at Toledo Woodward, Fort Recovery vs. Lehman Catholic at Sidney, Marion Local at Woodlan (Ind.), 7:30 p.m., Minster at Fort Loramie, New Bremen at Benjamin Logan, Parkway at Crestview, St. Henry at Covington, Versailles at Celina.
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Bonus fun fact: Rutledge was a regular on the Discovery Channel’s reality TV series American Muscle in 2014. Based in Detroit, the program featured pro athletes and their weight-lifting routines.
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