Marion Local and its Midwest Athletic Conference football brethren have made a lasting impression on Kirtland head coach Tiger LaVerde. And it’s not because the Flyers and Hornets of Lake County are paired for a third time in four years in a high school football state championship.
“I’m very jealous of (the MAC),” admitted LaVerde during this week’s statewide media conference call. “Those Friday nights, there’s so many great games and so many good schools and coaches. It’s a great conference. Every year but one when we’ve made it (to a state championship) we’ve run into a MAC school. It’s fun. Good people and good competition.”
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Those good times will be revived again when Marion Local (13-1) and Kirtland (14-0) play for a Division VI state championship at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at 10 a.m. Friday. Following that rematch of the 2017 D-VI title game will be Alter (13-1) vs. Chagrin Falls Kenston (13-1) in the D-III title game at 3 p.m.
Those are two of seven Week 15 and season-ending state title games, all of which will be played at the newly renovated stadium. Massillon Washington and Akron Archbishop Hoban kick off the championships by playing for a D-II title at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Three games each will follow on Friday and Saturday. All the games will be televised live on Spectrum (Channels 311 and 1311).
Marion Local and Kirtland are the titans of small-school Ohio football. This is the seventh time in the last eight seasons Kirtland has earned a state-title shot, and like LaVerde said, all but once against a MAC rep.
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Marion Local tops that, making its eighth straight state title appearance in D-VI or D-VII. Marion Local has lost only once in that span, 22-20 in 2015 to Kirtland for the D-VI title. Last season Marion Local defeated Kirtland 34-11 (D-VI).
“It’s the rubber match,” Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. “It’s two evenly matched teams with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s going to be interesting to see how those things play out.”
Both coaches credited that extraordinary success on widespread community support, high-achieving students and a commitment to carrying on those traditions.
“They do it with class,” said LaVerde, an insurance actuary before returning to college, finishing an undergrad degree and landing the Kirtland job. “We’ve played the MAC five times. It really is cool because that’s what high school athletics is all about. Those teams out there get that. Even when we’ve won games, the (MAC) crowd has always very gracious and courteous.”
»» RELATED: All-Ohio football Division VI
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LaVerde is an astonishing 158-17 in 13 seasons at Kirtland. That’s comparable to Goodwin. Marion Local owns a state-record 76 football playoff wins, most all with Goodwin in place. The Flyers had just one playoff appearance prior to 1999 when Goodwin took over.
Both programs have had in excess of 70 players each season since their state-title runs. That’s significant, because Kirtland has an adjusted boys enrollment of 156 and Marion Local 120, among the smallest in D-VI.
“The kids want to be successful and they’re going to gravitate to the people who are going to help them be successful,” Goodwin said. “Over where we’re at, the high school is still the point of emphasis in the community. There’s still a ton of pride in your school system. For the people around (Maria Stein), that’s what they do on the weekends. They watch their kids compete. You have that support in the community and that pride.”
»» RELATED: All-Area football Division I
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• Four area players were named on the Division V first team offense and defense for the Ohio Prep Sportswriter Association All-Ohio football teams that were released by the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Monday.
Chosen to the first-team offense were Anna junior running back Riley Huelskamp and Miami East senior lineman Brenden Dalton. The area’s first-team defensive players were Middletown Madison senior lineman Max Evans and defensive back Austin Tutt of Preble Shawnee.
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Making the D-IV second team were Northridge senior defensive back Twon Hines and Clinton-Massie senior defensive lineman Thomas Myers.
Divisions VI and VII were announced on Sunday. Teams were based on coaches’ nominations and voted on by district media panels. All-Ohio Divisions I, II and III will be released this week and Mr. Football announced on Wednesday.
»» RELATED: All-Area football Divisions II-III
»» RELATED: State football championships schedule
»» RELATED: Alter defeats Norwalk in D-III state semifinal
»» PHOTOS: Alter vs. Norwalk, D-III football state semi
»» RELATED: All-Area football Divisions IV-V
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»» RELATED: Divisions VI-VII All-Area football
»» RELATED: Marion Local has a winning combination
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»» RELATED: Quick start propels Marion Local
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