Marion Local edges Coldwater in MAC showdown

Marion Local running back Nolan Habodasz scored twice on 1-yard runs. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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Marion Local running back Nolan Habodasz scored twice on 1-yard runs. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Count Nolan Habodasz as one of the fortunate newcomers to break into Marion Local’s formidable starting lineup. When your seasons are based on small-school state championships, waiting your turn to become a significant Flyer takes on extra significance.

A slashing junior running back and lights-out defender, Habodasz is among the many who are first-year starters. And he proved he belonged with two short touchdown runs in a 13-7 Week 3 high school football win at rival Coldwater on Friday night.

“It was more of learning your role of what to do and just execute,” said Habodasz, who accounted for both Marion Local scores on 1-yard runs in the first and second halves.

“It just feels good. The last three years or so they’ve won it and it feels good to take that from them and keep going. It was extra special.”

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Because he’s a new player in this special small-ball series, Habodasz can be excused for mangling Midwest Athletic Conference history. Marion Local (3-0) snapped a two-game losing skid to Coldwater after falling by identical 17-14 scores in the 2015-16 seasons. It also is a major MAC accomplishment and a conference-opening statement.

Coldwater (1-2) is tagged with a rare two-game, regular-season losing skid after also falling 24-14 at unbeaten Clinton-Massie in Week 2. It was the last millennial when that happened to the Cavaliers.

“My first year here, we didn’t lose two in a row, but we were 1-2 at one point and ended up in the state final,” reflected Coldwater coach Chip Otten. “That’s part of the message there. Don’t think you’re out of it.”

It was essentially a defensive struggle with the Flyers getting the best of that matchup.

Linemen John Dirksen, Tyler Mescher, Darrin Hays and linebackers Jack Buening and Alex Parington were particularly effective in the second half when needed most. A 40-yard TD dash by Coldwater quarterback Sam Broering in the first quarter was the wakeup call the Flyers’ defense responded to.

“The first half we got too far up field on the pass rush and (Broering) did a great job making plays on his feet,” Flyers coach Tim Goodwin said. “We had to make an adjustment with our lanes and they did a really nice job that second half.”

Trailing by a point, Marion Local recovered a fumble deep in Coldwater’s red zone midway through the third quarter. It took four plays to cover 10 yards, but Habodasz delivered the game-winning score on fourth down, his second 1-yard scoring dive.

Habodasz had a game-high 78 yards rushing. Flyers QB Nathan Bruns completed 10 of 19 tosses for 96 yards. Broering led the Cavs with 39 yards rushing and completed 13 of 23 passes for 105 yards. Ben Wenning (Cavs) and Matt Rethman (Flyers) each had seven receptions.

Seven MAC games remain, but the winner of this game has shared or won an outright conference title since 2012. Also, both are lumped into Division VI, Region, 24, meaning this might not be the last time these rivals play this season.

“I really don’t want to think about that,” Otten said. “But, obviously, if that happens, that’s a good thing. That means we won games and are in the playoffs.”

• The 50/50 drawing didn’t set a record, but almost. Tickets were sold only through halftime, and the winner took home $13,254. That’s the second-most in a record-setting last three years, trailing only the $14,724 pot in 2016. The schools’ athletic departments split the other half each season.

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