Mighty MAC eyes three more state football championships

Coldwater beat New Middletown Springfield 38-35 to win its seventh state football championship in last year's Division VI title game at Massillon's Tiger Stadium. OHSAA photo

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Coldwater beat New Middletown Springfield 38-35 to win its seventh state football championship in last year's Division VI title game at Massillon's Tiger Stadium. OHSAA photo

Versailles, Coldwater and Marion Local play in title games on Saturday

The best of small-school football in Ohio will be on parade at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton on Saturday.

The grand marshal, as usual, will be the Midwest Athletic Conference. Versailles in Division V, Coldwater in Division VI and Marion Local in Division VII will try to duplicate 2014 when three MAC teams – Coldwater, Minster, Marion Local – were crowned champions.

“Certainly there’s conference pride at stake,” said Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin. “It’s exciting to have that kind of success in the playoffs for all of us.”

This is the fourth time since 2014 that three MAC teams have played in the Division V, VI and VII finals. The MAC owns 37 state titles since Minster began the run in 1989.

But there is more royalty than the MAC in the state finals. The six teams have won a combined 39 state titles:

» Versailles (14-1) has six titles, most recently in 2003. The Tigers face Kirtland (14-0), owners of six titles, including three straight, all coming since 2011. They also own 55-game winning streak, the longest active one in the nation.

» Marion Local (15-0) shares the state record of 11 titles (all since 2000) with Cleveland St. Ignatius. The Flyers face Newark Catholic (14-1), an eight-time champion from 1978-2007.

» Coldwater (13-2) won its seventh title last year and has seven since 2005. The Cavaliers play Carey (14-1). The Blue Devils are the only team that doesn’t measure up historically to the others. They won their lone title in 1975 and reached the semifinal this year for just the third time.

“We’ve never had a game against anybody from that conference that was nothing but great sportsmanship, great character and kids playing as hard as they possibly can,” said Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde, whose last loss was to Marion Local in the 2017 Division VI championship.

Division VII: Marion Local vs. Newark Catholic, 10:30 a.m.

The Flyers had a down season for them last year. They were unbeaten until they lost to MAC rival New Bremen, the eventual champion, in the regional final.

“It was shocking to us,” Goodwin said. “We had been to nine state finals in a row and it’s human nature to expect to go the 10th time. In the big picture it may have been a good thing. It certainly motivated all of us, including the coaches, to reflect and work a little harder.”

How do the Flyers keep doing it? Goodwin says a key factor is playing a tougher schedule than most Division VII schools. But they also aren’t afraid to move players around.

Peyton Otte was an all-state receiver last year. This year he is the quarterback with 1,380 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns and 1,247 passing yards and nine touchdowns. And when dynamic sophomore running back Kyle Otte was lost to injury, linebacker Darren Meier joined the offense to lead a by-committee backfield.

“When you’re watching film on these guys that’s the thing that jumps out first is that they are just sound in everything that they do and the physicality that they bring,” Newark Catholic coach Ryan Aiello said. “If you want to have success against a team like this, you’ve got to do small things correctly.”

Division VI: Coldwater vs. Carey, 3 p.m.

Coldwater coach Chip Otten had to find a new quarterback to give his team a chance to defend its title, and he did so in senior Reece Dellinger.

Dellinger has thrown for 2,938 yards and 29 touchdowns by spreading the wealth. Tyler Schwieterman has 50 catches for 1,068 yards while Jesse Meyer has 43 catches, Marcel Blasingame has 34 and Tanner Muhlenkamp has 29.

The Cavaliers run the ball well, too, with Isaac Fullenkamp and others, but the runner to watch in this game is the guy the call the Winnebago in Carey. Jordan Vallejo is a 6-1, 265-pound senior who never carried the ball until this season. He has 1,544 rushing yards and a school-record 34 touchdowns. Also, senior quarterback Derek Lonsway is the first player in school history to pass and rush for over 1,000 yards.

“The combination of those two guys just makes it difficult,” Otten said. “The fear is that you’re playing OK defense and you just can’t get them stopped. And first down after first down and your offense doesn’t get the ball.”

Carey has been good at that. The Blue Devils have allowed only 34 points in five playoff games and 48 points with six shutouts in the last 10 games.

“I would like to say it’s business as usual, but it’s the MAC and Coldwater’s there all the time,” Carey coach Jonathan Mershman said. “The fact that we’re playing a MAC school we can find out who we are.”

Division V: Versailles vs. Kirtland, 7:30 p.m.

Third-year coach Ryan Jones has seen his Versailles team able to motivate themselves to finally take the program back to state.

First, it was a playoff loss to Cincinnati Roger Bacon in last year’s playoffs.

“That really motivated the guys in the offseason, and then those typical MAC games just helped build confidence throughout the season and carried us into the playoffs,” Jones said.

One of those MAC games was a 19-17 loss to Marion Local in Week 3.

“They used that as a rallying point and as motivation for the rest of the season,” Jones said.

The Tigers are big and talented up front on both sides led by 6-4, 300-pound senior Taran Tyo. But the team runs on the production and leadership of senior Carson Bey at linebacker and quarterback.

“He brings great leadership in every way, nobody outworks Carson and he’s a very physical tough kid,” Jones said. “He’s a football player and could line up and play wherever you want.”

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