Kirk Dougal/Times Bulletin St. John's quarterback Wes Ulm dives into the end zone for the winning score in overtime as Delphos defeated Marion Local, 13-7, to move on in the playoffs. The Jays will take on Norwalk St. Paul next Saturday at Massillon in the State Final game.
Kirk Dougal/Times Bulletin St. John's quarterback Wes Ulm dives into the end zone for the winning score in overtime as Delphos defeated Marion Local, 13-7, to move on in the playoffs. The Jays will take on Norwalk St. Paul next Saturday at Massillon in the State Final game.
BY KIRK DOUGAL

Times Bulletin Editor

kdougal@timesbulletin.com

WAPAKONETA - Defense wins championships.

St. John's coach Todd Schulte was the first to point out on Saturday that they had not yet won another championship after their 13-7 overtime victory over MAC foe Marion Local at Harmon Field in Wapakoneta in their State Semifinal game. But everyone who watches high school football in Ohio realizes that at some point along the way to a state title, there is usually a game that is won by the defense in a grind-it-out fashion.

That describes the Saturday night state semifinal game.

The first half was a battle of defensive wills with neither team giving an inch to the other. Both tried to establish the running games they were known for and each were able to find some brief glimpses but no sustained drives. Marion Local's Niles Keller was able to break a 27-yard run off tackle the first time he touched the ball but he only gained 26 more yards in the half on 12 more carries.

The rest of the first half was filled with the defenses giving up one and sometimes two first downs before forcing punts. Even turnovers did not lead to points as St. John's gathered in two - an interception by Justin Backus and a fumble recovery by Derek Klaus - that led only to stalled drives. Neither team threatened to score with the Flyers gaining only 54 yards of offense, all on the ground, and the Blue Jays going for only 73 total yards.

The third quarter started the same way. Marion Local began with two first downs - the first on an 11-yard roll out and pass by QB Jarren Griesdorn to WR Greg Schwieterman and the second a three-yard dive by Keller on fourth and one. But on the next series St. John's Evan Burgei broke up a third and 13 pass toward Schwieterman to continue their defensive dominance.

Then the Jays' best drive of the night began at their own 16-yard line with a 14-yard keeper by QB Wes Ulm on the option right. Two plays later on third and three, RB Jordan Leininger made the corner on the left side on the option and gained 12 yards. FB Mitch MacLennan followed up last week's big game with a ten-yard burst up the middle on a trap. Leininger and MacLennan continued to move the Jays down the field until on fourth and four from the Flyers' 20-yard line, Ulm faked play action into the line and found TE Jay Clark over the middle. Clark appeared to land on the goal line as he was tackled but the officials marked him down on the two-foot line. Not to be denied, two sneaks by Ulm behind the offensive line and Delphos cracked the scoreboard first at the 2:11 mark of the third quarter for a 7-0 lead.

Again the Delphos defense held after a Flyer first down when Jays DE Chris Ulm knocked down a Griesdorn pass at the line of scrimmage. But on the ensuing Delphos series, a MacLennan fumble gave Marion Local a short field midway through the fourth quarter. Keller carried the ball for first 16 yards and then 11 before Griesdorn found WR Jared Prenger on a post route off play action and suddenly the game was tied, 7-7, with 8:07 left to play.

Both defenses held firm and for the second week in a row, St. John's was headed for overtime.

In the overtime, Marion Local had the ball first. Keller ran for six yards before the Jays' front line stopped FB Jake Heitkamp for no gain. Keller picked up two more and then on fourth and two it was Keller again as he bounced off contact at the line of scrimmage, ran out to the right and staggered for three yards. On first and goal from the nine-yard line, Keller only tallied five yards on three successive carries. Faced with fourth and goal from the five, Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin decided he needed to go for the touchdown. Griesdorn faked the handoff right and then spun to throw a screen to the left. But the Jays' Klaus was there again in his defensive end position to leap up and knock down the pass.

St. John's then took their turn from the 20-yard line and stayed with their bread-and-butter. Leininger took the power pitch for five yards left and then a second time for one-yard back to the right. That left the Jays facing a third and four from the 14-yard line and PK Josh Rode warming up his leg on the sidelines for a potential game-winning field goal. He never had a chance.

Ulm took the snap, moved around right end, faked a cut-back to the left and then bounced to the outside right. He raced the Flyer defensive back to the corner of the end zone and dived over the pylon for the touchdown sending the Blue Jays fans into hysterics and St. John's back to the State Final game to try to repeat as Division VI champions.

"Our defense kept coming up big," Coach Schulte said after the game. "It was back and forth between our two defenses. Before the game we were talking and the coaches thought this was going to be close. We know each other so well that we try to do a few wrinkles here and there but at this point in the season with our offense you don't want to abandon everything that has got us here."

Schulte had nothing but praise for his defense and especially the pressure the defensive line was able to put on Griesdorn.

"We let our front four or three try to get upfield. The guys up front did a tremendous job. When you are stopping a team that runs the ball like that it starts up front."

Griesdorn was five for 15 throwing the ball for Marion Local for 58 yards and one touchdown. The Flyers interception was thrown by WR Austin Berning on an option pass. Keller led the offense with 138 yards on 33 carries. Marion Local had 225 yards of total offense for the game.

For St. John's, Ulm was only four of 14 throwing the ball for 31 yards but managed 66 yards on 17 carries and both scores. Leininger gained 80 yards on 19 carries while MacLennan helped with eight attempts for 42 yards. The Jays totaled 219 yards of offense on the night.

Delphos will play the Norwalk St. Paul Flyers who defeated Grove City Christian, 52-7, on Saturday night. The two teams will meet next Saturday, December 5, at Massillon Paul Brown Stadium at 3 p.m. in the Division VI State Final game.

(To see more photos from the game, go to www.timesbulletin.com and click on the "Photos" icon at the top of the homepage.)