WAPAKONETA — Marion Local has tightrope walked its way to Massillon.
Jacy Goettemoeller took a pitch off right tackle, leapt over a McComb defender and burrowed his way in from seven yards out to lift a charmed Marion Local to a 34-28 win in triple overtime in a Division VI state semi-final at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field on Friday night.
The Flyers (12-2) will play Newark Catholic on Friday, Nov. 30 at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium with a chance to win back-to-back state crowns and earn the school’s sixth state championship.
Photos: Marion Local vs. McComb Football
Marion Local squandered a 21-0 halftime lead in the second half. And after close calls in regulation against Minster and St. Henry the two previous weeks, they made Flyer fans squirm through three overtimes.
“We’ve beaten three straight senior-laden teams and we’ve been able to hold on, fight, scratch and beat them, which is pretty amazing,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said. “We’ve won three straight close games in a row that I thought were coin flip games going into them. How many times are you going to win a coin flip?”
Marion Local jaunted out to the three-touchdown lead by taking advantage of McComb miscues and bottling up McComb’s triple threat running back Jerry Brown. Brown, the Division VI Northwest District offensive player of the year, had only 24 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half.
In one play midway through the fourth quarter, Brown escaped his container and gave the Panthers hope of knocking off their second straight Midwest Athletic Conference opponent.
Brown caught an 88-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to suddenly get the Panthers to within a single score with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter.
“I think there was a feeling of ‘Oh no, here we go again,’” Goodwin said. “We did everything we could to try to stem it, but McComb’s a good team and they figured out what they wanted to do against our defense.”
A Panther team that unsuccessfully started the game in a stacked I-formation ended up finding paydirt three times in the second half in four-wide spread set that spread Marion Local’s young secondary thin and attacked with a potent short passing game.
Marion Local tried to run out the clock, but McComb stopped the Flyers to give itself a chance at tying the game with the ball and 3:10 left.
“As time went on it just got tenser and tenser and tenser,” Goodwin said.
McComb quarterback Dalton Buck orchestrated a flawless two-minute drill, capping off a 68-yard drive full of jailbreak screens and Panther receivers shedding tackles with a 15-yard strike to Cody Wilson down the middle seam.
Buck went 30-for-48 passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns to go along with four interceptions.
Marion Local got the ball back with 1:40 left in regulation and moved the ball down to the McComb 20 yard line before turning the ball over on downs when Bertke threw an incomplete pass on fourth and two while under duress from the McComb pass rush.
Both teams failed to score in the first overtime. In the second overtime, Goettemoeller scored a 14-yard touchdown run off right tackle for the Flyers. Goettemoeller finished the game with a team-high 92 yards rushing and three scores.
McComb answered back with a Jerry Brown jump pass for a 11-yard touchdown on fourth and one.
In the third overtime, an offensive pass interference call on McComb pushed the Panthers into a second and 25 situation. Marion Local got the stop on downs, setting up Goettemoeller’s late heroics.
Marion Local built up a 21-0 lead with a opportunistic defense leading the way.
Adam Bertke picked off his second pass of the first quarter, this time returning the pick 19 yards for a touchdown to give the Flyers a 7-0 lead with 6:20 left in the first quarter.
After Marion Local scooped up a fumble, the Flyers cashed in in the unlikeliest of ways.
After a holding penalty and deadball personal foul made it 2nd and 36, Bertke threw up a pass into traffic that got batted up in the air by Hunter Wilker and then was hauled in with a one-handed touchdown catch by Troy Homan.
The Flyers are no stranger to converting unlikely first downs. The week before against St. Henry, Marion Local converted a first and 37 with a 76 yard touchdown run.
Marion Local led 14-0 with 8:15 left in the second quarter.
A high snap on a punt by McComb set up yet another Marion Local first half touchdown. Goettemoeller churned in from one yard out to give the Flyers a 21-0 lead with 4:10 left in the second quarter.
Bertke intercepted his third pass of the game in the end zone to foil McComb’s impressive first drive of the second half, but the Panthers got on the scoreboard later in the third quarter on Brown’s eight yard run.
The teams traded turnovers in the fourth quarter. Mark Thobe muffed a punt return, but the Flyers got the ball right back on a Dustin Rethman interception two plays later.
That set up Brown’s long touchdown reception and McComb’s late furious rally.
Marion Local won despite quarterback Adam Bertke throwing four interceptions. He was 16-of-25 for 197 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 76 yards, as well.