FORT LORAMIE — It’s been a very familiar season for Fort Loramie’s football team. The Redskins lost their season opener against Minster but haven’t lost since. Their only close victory was a five-point win over Covington in Week 4 — they’ve won the rest with running-clock margins.
It’s the exact same pattern the team followed last season when it won the first Cross County Conference championship and regional championship in program history.
The similar pattern will end next week. While the squad largely cruised in its three regional games last year, the Redskins will get the toughest opponent they’ve faced this year in their next playoff game: Marion Local.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Fort Loramie coach Spencer Wells said. “It’s really not about Marion Local. It’s about Fort Loramie, and making sure we play our best football next week. We feel really good about ourselves when we play our best football.”
Fort Loramie earned its seventh consecutive running clock victory with a 61-7 defeat of Hardin Northern in a Division VII regional quarterfinal on Saturday at Redskin Stadium while the Flyers beat Mississinawa Valley 56-6 on their home field to set up a playoff matchup between the two neighboring school districts. The regional semifinal will kick off at 7 p.m. this Saturday at St. Marys’ new Alumni Field, which opened earlier this year.
It’ll be Fort Loramie’s first test since the 19-14 victory over Covington on Sept. 20. The Redskins have won their last seven games by at least 41 points.
That’s nothing new for them, though. After beating Miami East by two touchdowns in Week 4 last year, they won nine consecutive games by at least 27 points before falling to McComb in a state semifinal.
“We had a similar situation last year and practice was big,” Wells said. “I think that’s been a focus of ours, to really bring it in practice. We condition really hard throughout the week. We feel good about where we’re at there.”
Fort Loramie (10-1) rolled over its last six CCC opponents to secure its second consecutive outright league title. Saturday’s win was similar to the squad’s playoff opener last year, when it beat Hamilton New Miami 41-0 on its home field.
The Redskins unofficially had 397 yards of offense on Saturday and held the Polar Bears to 152. Seven different players scored, and the TDs came fast and furious as the team built a 41-7 lead by halftime.
“We have been talking about that we want to be peaking at this point in the season, so I thought that was a great effort to start the playoffs,” Wells said. “We know what lies ahead next week. We’re excited to attack it this week and get better.”
The Redskins have followed the same roadmap to success as last year: a balanced running attack on offense to compliment quarterback Collin Moore’s passing ability, a dominant offensive line that hasn’t allowed a sack all year and a stifling defense that entering Saturday’s game had allowed an average of 108.3 yards and 6.3 points per game.
“Our guys know the formula to success that we put into place,” Wells said. “It starts up front with good line play, and everyone else just follows their lead, reads their keys and plays with good technique. I think that’s something we’ve really improved on from Week 1, guys reading and trusting their keys and playing with really, really good technique.”
While Fort Loramie won its first regional title last year, Marion Local advanced to its eighth consecutive state championship game. The Flyers have won 10 state titles, all since 2000 under coach Tim Goodwin.
“We always tell our guys that no matter who we’re playing, it’s about us,” Wells said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re putting our best effort out there and playing with good technique. We feel pretty good about ourselves when we play our best football, so that will be what we’ll have to do this week, have an outstanding week of practice.”
Marion Local lost most of its starters from its D-VI runner-up squad last year but has again proven to be among the best of Ohio’s small school programs. The Flyers (9-2) earned a share of the Midwest Athletic Conference title with one of the league’s best defenses.
In 10 regular-season games, Marion Local allowed league lows in yards (195.1) and points (10) per game.
How good is the defense? The squad held high-powered Anna to a season-low 14 points in a three-point win in Week 5. The Rockets haven’t scored less than 42 points in their other games.
Fort Loramie will try to keep its offense going against the Flyers. Entering Saturday’s game, the Redskins had averaged 363.5 yards and 46.6 points per game.
Moore has thrown for 1,314 yards and 16 TDs and is one three players that has over 300 rushing yards this season. A variety of players have caught passes — three players have over 250 receiving yards.
“We’re pretty blessed to have a variety of athletes,” Wells said. “We want to get the ball in their hands quick and let them go do the hard work.”
The lone area Fort Loramie has had consistency problems at is kicking, but they’ve seemed to have found their answer in recent weeks in junior defensive lineman Mack Fortman. Fortman has kicked in the team’s last four games and has made 29-of-37 extra-point attempts.
“He’s done a really good job with that,” Wells said. “We had a couple of holds tonight that we’ve really got to get down, but overall that has been a really good thing to see these last few weeks.”
Fortman worked out his leg a lot in the first half on Saturday.
Nate Meyer scored on a 15-yard run with 8:26 left in the first quarter to give the squad a 7-0 lead, then Nick Brandewie scored on a short pass with 5:57 left to extend the lead to 14-0.
Damon Mescher scored on a 2-yard run with 11:57 left in the second to boost the lead to 20-0 after a missed extra point. Moore scored on a 25-yard with 6:24 left, but Hardin Northern cut the lead back to 20 points after a 68-yard pass from Nevin Robson to Owen Wetherill two minutes later.
Mescher scored on a 31-yard run with 2:09 left, then Mark Seger caught a 36-yard TD pass from Moore in the final minute to extend the lead to 41-7 at halftime.
Brandewie intercepted a pass to end the first drive of the second half. Moore threw a 1-yard touchdown to Damon Mescher with 9:29 left in the third to boost the lead to 48-7 after scrambling and running about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Meyer scored on a 23-yard run before the end of the quarter, then Jacob Sherman scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.