ST. MARYS — Fort Loramie’s defense frustrated Marion Local throughout a Division VII, Region 28 semifinal on Saturday.
But the Redskins were the only ones frustrated at the end of the game.
Marion Local converted several fourth downs on its last two possessions, twice battled back in the fourth quarter to tie it and then completed a comeback in overtime in a 24-21 victory at Grand Lakes Health System Field in St. Marys.
The Flyers (10-2) advance to face New Bremen in a regional final this Saturday at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field. The Cardinals beat Lima Perry 42-14 in a semifinal on Saturday in Piqua to advance.
Fort Loramie (10-2) bottled up Marion Local’s rushing attack and harassed senior quarterback Kyle Muhlenkamp through much of the game. But Muhlenkamp and the team’s receivers came up with enough big plays, including on two fourth down conversions on the team’s final drive in regulation and another conversion in its overtime possession.
The Redskins, which won their first regional title in program history last year, were hoping to knock off the Midwest Athletic Conference power Flyers, which have played in state finals each year since 2011.
Instead, Fort Loramie again ran into the MAC hump in the postseason. The Redskins haven’t beaten a MAC team in a playoff game in nine tries, four of which have ended with losses to the Flyers.
Unlike most the playoff losses to MAC teams, Saturday’s game was close throughout.
“We knew what our kids were capable of,” Fort Loramie coach Spencer Wells said. “Our assistant coaches did a great job of preparing them. They left it on the line. It’s unfortunate that we came up short here at the end. They made maybe one more play than we did, and that was enough.”
Longtime Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin complemented the Redskins and said they were as good as any MAC squad.
“Their defense is unique,” Goodwin said. “They play a two-high defense, and it’s tough to pass against that. They did a great job of really slowing down our run game, pretty much all night. They made things tough for us.”
The Flyers converted two fourth downs deep in Fort Loramie territory in the final minutes in regulation and then scored on a 9-yard pass from Kyle Muhlenkamp to Peyton Otte with a minute left to tie it 21-21. The Redskins then took a knee to send it to overtime.
Marion Local started with the ball in overtime. Muhlenkamp completed a fourth-down pass to Blake Schwieterman to move the ball to the 5-yard line, but then the ball was moved back to the 15 on the next play after a holding penalty.
After two incomplete passes, Alex Klosterman kicked a 35-yard field goal to give Marion Local a 24-21 lead.
“They made big plays and we made big plays,” Wells said. “It was a slugfest. Someone had to win and someone had to lose, and they made the play there at the end to win it. Credit to them.”
Fort Loramie lost yards on a run on its first play in overtime, and junior quarterback Collin Moore then threw three incomplete passes to end the game.
The Redskins, which won their second consecutive outright Cross County Conference championship this season, will lose 13 seniors to graduation.
“Our guys battled our butts off tonight,” Wells said. “I can’t be more thankful to our seniors and what they’ve done for this program. They laid it on the line, and that’s what we talked about doing tonight.”
Marion Local trailed 14-7 at halftime but quickly tied it up.
The Flyers forced Fort Loramie into a three-and-out to start the third quarter and then turned it over on downs at Fort Loramie’s 5. The Redskins went three-and-out again, and Marion Local started their next drive near midfield.
Marion Local quickly drove down and scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Muhlenkamp to Brandon Fleck with 3:21 left in the third quarter to tie it 14-14.
Fort Loramie drove deep into Marion Local territory on the next drive and had two passes nearly intercepted, then had a field goal attempt blocked and returned to midfield.
The Flyers had to punt on their next drive, but Moore then had a pass intercepted by Blake Schwieterman early in the fourth. Fort Loramie’s Mark Seger ended the next drive by intercepting a Muhlenkamp pass at Marion Local’s 31 with 6:04 left.
The Redskins drove down after several big passes by Moore, then scored on a 15-yard run up the middle by Nate Meyer with 3:38 left to take a 21-14 lead.
Marion Local converted a fourth-and-four on its next drive to get a first down at Fort Loramie’s 34. The Flyers then had two incomplete passes and completed one for three yards to set up a fourth-and-seven with 1:30 left. Muhlenkamp threw a first-down pass to Schwieterman, then completed another pass to give the team a first-and-goal at the 9.
Two plays later, Muhlenkamp threw a pass to Otte on the home sideline, who broke a tackle at the 4 and ran into the end zone to tie it 21-21 with 1:00 left.
The Redskins went three-and-out on the first drive of the game and Marion Local then drove down the field and scored on a 1-yard run by Fleck with 5:13 left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
Fort Loramie got going on its next drive. After a couple of long passes, Meyer took a handoff, turned toward the home sideline and raced down the field into the end zone on a 22-yard run with 50 seconds left in the first quarter to tie it 7-7.
The Flyers fumbled on the second play of the next drive and Fort Loramie’s Noah Guillozet recovered. The Redskins then scored two plays later on a 31-yard pass from Moore to Seger to take a 14-7 lead six seconds into the second quarter.
The teams traded punts until halftime.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.