Its lineup depleted of 18 starting seniors, the storied Marion Local football program had a lot to prove this football season. Mostly, to itself.
“It’s a big season for everybody,” gushed emerging Flyers sophomore Peyton Otte who proved key in Marion Local’s 24-21 overtime defeat of Fort Loramie in a Division VII, Region 28 high school football regional semifinal at the new Roughrider Athletic Complex on Saturday night. “This is huge.”
»»RELATED: Badin takes out Alter in rematch
That sets up an all-Midwest Athletic Conference Week 13 regional final at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field this coming Saturday between Marion Local (10-2) and surprising New Bremen (9-3), a No. 8 last seed that crushed Lima Perry 42-14 in the other Region 28 semi at Piqua. Marion Local and New Bremen did not play in the regular season.
It’s only the third time New Bremen has qualified for the postseason and the deepest into the playoffs the Cardinals have ventured.
»»PHOTOS: Alter vs. Badin, Week 12 football
The pressure to extend its high level of excellency has been on Marion Local all season. Nothing new about that; Marion Local has played for a small-school state championship the last eight seasons, winning six.
But a mostly untested lineup and a Week 12 showdown with Fort Loramie (10-2) seemed daunting and it was. Fort Loramie, out of the Cross County Conference, had its own legacy mounting after surging into the D-VII state semifinals last season and looking to top that this year.
»» RELATED: Cowbell Mafia awaits Trotwood-Madison
Both Marion Local and Fort Loramie had common losses to Minster, which was bounced by Anna in the first round of the D-VI playoffs. Anna (11-1) will play Archbold (11-1) in a D-VI, Region 23 final at Lima Spartan Stadium on Friday.
Fort Loramie appeared to have the game won on Nate Meyer’s second touchdown run, this time a 22-yarder with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter that put the Redskins up 21-14.
»» MIKE & MARC: The boys address Weeks 11-12 playoff football
Marion Local rallied around senior quarterback Kyle Muhlenkamp, who twice converted on fourth down. Otte scored on a twisting 9-yard touchdown pass from Muhlenkamp with 1:00 left to force OT.
Flyers senior Alex Klosterman etched his name in program history by converting a 35-yard field goal on Marion Local’s only OT possession. Loramie went four-and-out on its following OT possession and the Flyers erupted in celebration after the Redskins’ final incomplete pass.
»» RELATED: BlackHawks football … “He’s not talkin’ crazy”
“It’s a reflection of the kids and the program, the community and all of the support we’ve had,” assured Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin. “These seniors waited until their senior year to play, a lot of them. They were willing to keep working and stick with the program and here we are, going to the regional final.”
Meyer of Loramie also scored on a 22-yard run in the first quarter to pull the teams even at 7-all. Loramie led 14-7 at halftime on Collin Moore’s 31-yard TD pass to Joel Keiser.
»» RELATED: Final football power rankings
Muhlenkamp’s first TD pass was seven yards to Brandon Fleck late in the third quarter that set up the fateful fourth.
It was a state-title worthy showdown that unfortunately played out much too early in the playoffs.
“This is why you do it,” Loramie coach Spencer Wells said. “I was telling my wife before the game, it’s the feeling you get before these moments. I knew it was going to be a dogfight. It’s such a special group of kids. I’m so proud to be a Fort Loramie Redskin.”
»» RELATED: MAC teams state poll champs
»» RELATED: Final state football polls
»» RELATED: That dreaded No. 9 position
»» SOCIAL MEDIA: You should like Marc Pendleton on Facebook and Twitter