The Marion Local High School football team is one win away from its 11th state championship in program history.
The two-time defending state champion Flyers jumped out to a 27-0 halftime lead and beat Attica Seneca East 34-6 in a Division VI state semifinal game Friday night at Lima Senior Spartan Stadium.
Marion Local (13-1) will face a familiar foe in Kirtland (14-0) in the D-VI state finals at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton at 10 a.m. next Friday. The Hornets beat Fort Frye 34-18 in the other D-VI state semifinal.
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Marion Local beat Kirtland 34-11 in the state championship game last season for its sixth title since 2011. The Flyers’ last runner-up finish came in 2015 when they lost to Kirtland 22-20.
On Friday night, Brandon Fleck had two rushing touchdowns and Nathan Bruns passed for two scores as the Flyers won their fourth straight game. Nolan Habodasz and Nick Tangeman caught the TD passes from Bruns. Habodasz added a rushing TD.
It was the first state semifinal appearance for Seneca East, the Region 22 champion which won playoff four games this season after previously going 0-6 in the postseason. That can have its pros and cons, Flyers coach Tim Goodwin said.
“Their crowd was here early, ringing cow bells,” Goodwin said.
The Flyers forced a punt on the Tigers’ first possession, which led to a 54-yard TD run by Habodasz to give Marion Local a 7-0 lead.
“It was a totally foreign opponent, so I didn’t know what was going to be best to be honest with you,” Goodwin said. “We just tried a little bit here and a little bit there. We played pretty well. Seneca East played hard.”
The Flyers followed with TD runs of 3 and 1 yards by Fleck to make it 21-0 with 8:42 remaining in the second quarter.
An interception by Grant Meier set up a 33-yard TD pass from Bruns to Habodasz to extend the lead to 27-0 at the half.
On the first possession of the second half, Bruns found Tangeman on a short pass and he tip-toed down the sideline and into the end zone for a 65-yard TD that gave the Flyers a 34-0 lead, which started the running clock in the second half.
The Tigers (12-2) spoiled the shutout with no time remaining when DJ Ruffing found Mason Foos on a 7-yard TD pass. The Flyers bottled up running back Blaine Swartzmiller, the D-VI Northwest District offensive player of the year who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season.
“I really think our defense has been steadily improving all year,” Goodwin said. “We’ve got some young guys over there, really. On offense, sometimes we’ve got 11 seniors out there. On defense, sometimes we’ve got six underclassmen out there. That’s where we’ve seen the most growth out there on the defensive side of the ball.”