High School Football: Marion Local beats Kirtland for second straight state title, 13th overall

CANTON — The Marion Local High School football team are undefeated state champions for the second straight season.

The Flyers beat Northeast Ohio powerhouse Kirtland 14-6 in the Division VI state championship in front of 3,960 fans on a windy Saturday morning at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

Marion Local senior Darren Meier scored on a 2-yard TD run in the first half and senior Nathan Buschur’s 57-yard interception return touchdown gave the Flyers a lead they would never relinquish. Marion Local finished the season a perfect 16-0, while Kirtland lost for the first time since last year’s D-V state championship game and finished 15-1.

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“It was a very tough game,” said Flyers coach Tim Goodwin. “Yards were hard to come by, let alone points. The wind definitely played a factor in field position, the second half especially. Neither team could put much together. … It was a tough battle, tough battle.”

Junior Kyle Otte led the way with 75 yards rushing as Marion Local won its 13th state championship in 16 state final appearances since 1999.

The Flyers took the lead on a 2-yard run by Meier with 1:39 remaining in the first half. The Hornets drove into Flyer territory on their next possession, but Marion Local senior Aidan Eifert intercepted a pass to end the threat.

In the third quarter, Buschur returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown to give the Flyers a 14-0 lead.

“I just saw him overthrow it a little but, went up and caught it and started running,” Buschur said. “All I could see was my teammates in front of me. I didn’t see anyone else coming and just kept running.”

A few minutes later, the Hornets scored on a 10-yard TD pass from Jake LaVerde to Will Sayle to cut the lead to 14-6. It was the first touchdown the Flyers had given up since Sept. 23.

Kirtland drove the ball into Marion Local territory late in the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over on downs on the Flyers 44 with 2:43 remaining.

Marion Local set a state record with 11 shutouts this season, allowing just 39 points all season.

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In the playoffs, the Flyers outscored their opponents 232-9 in six games.

“Their defense was as advertised,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde. “It’s hard to replicate their size, speed and physicality in practice.”

It was the fourth state final meeting between Marion Local and Kirtland. The Hornets won in 2015 and 2018, while the Flyers won in 2017 and 2022.

Last year, the Flyers beat Newark Catholic 42-7 to win the D-VII state championship, while Kirtland lost to Versailles 20-16 in the D-V state final. Both teams were reclassified to D-VI last May and knew another meeting could happen in Canton.

“I think both schools probably took notice of that and we said, ‘Well, if we wanna win a gold trophy this year, we’re going to have to beat Kirtland in the end’,” Goodwin said.

The Flyers completed a perfect season for the second straight season. They’ve won 32 straight games since falling to New Bremen 24-17 in the 2020 Region 28 final.

“That’s what we do, we chase perfection,” Goodwin said. “You’re never going to hit it and we know that, but it’s the quest. It’s the quest. That’s what we do, we’re wired for that quest. That’s what Kirtland is. We’re just wired differently. This was a blast today because they competed. This was way more fun than us rolling out here and drilling someone or putting a running clock on someone.”

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