Coach proud of ‘incredibly competitive’ Indians

Mechanicsburg had been waiting a year to get another shot at Marion Local. But the Flyers were well aware of the target on their back, and they didn’t let the Indians get in the way of their goal of a state title.

Marion Local ran away late in the fourth quarter to a 25-16 win in a Division VI regional final playoff game Friday night at Sidney Memorial Stadium. The Flyers built a 13-0 halftime lead, then scored two touchdowns in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter to effectively put the game away. Though the Indians scored late to cut the deficit to nine points, Marion Local ran out the clock.

“My hat’s off to them, they made the plays when they had to,” Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest said. “But our kids fought to the very bitter end. That’s who they are. They’re competitors, they’re fighters. I’m very proud of them.”

The Flyers beat Mechanicsburg 9-7 last year in a regional final after making a late field goal. They lost to Kirkland two weeks later in the D-VI state championship game, which broke a streak of four consecutive state titles.

While last season’s loss to Marion Local stayed in the minds of most of the Indians through this year, the Flyers’ seniors have been thinking about their loss to Kirkland. Marion Local senior quarterback Duane Leugers said the team was determined to prevent Mechanicsburg from getting in the way of a return trip to Columbus.

“We’re on a huge mission,” Leugers said. “Us 20 seniors, we’ve been very determined since we lost last year. We came out and worked very hard in the summer, and we’re on the right track to get where we want to go. We knew we had to come out and fly around and play like madmen against these guys.”

The loss ends a successful career for Mechanicsburg’s senior class. The Indians will lose nine starters to graduation, seven of whom started on both sides of the ball. Mechanicsburg made it as far as the regional finals and won at least a share of the Ohio Heritage Conference three out of the last four seasons.

“They’re incredibly tough,” Forrest said of the senior class. “They’re incredibly competitive, and they’re incredibly stubborn, and I mean that in a very, very positive way. They’re going to make sure they get the job done; they’re going to make sure they get done what they need to get done.

“That’s who they are as a group, and they’re going to have a lot of success in their individual lives because of the fight that they had in them, that stubbornness and the spirit they have.”

Mechanicsburg senior quarterback Kaleb Romero had another strong game to cap his career. He ran for 166 yards, completed 7-of-12 passes for 69 yards and had a hand in both of Mechanicsburg’s touchdowns. Romero set 27 school records over the last four years, including most career offensive yards (11,468) and total touchdowns (84).

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