Olentangy quarterback Riley Bruenig (18) is smothered on this play by Marysville’s Tyler Bates (4), Sean Brogan (60) and Bodie Eberhart (21). The Monarchs lost 21-14.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
There is something to be said for a prize fighter who keeps moving forward despite getting his face blistered by a superior opponent.
Often a crowd favorite, overmatched fighters with moxie embody the American spirit of never giving up. They push on through a storm of punches and, in a way, they win because they fight.
Similarly, the Marysville football team is a battler. Having already lost an overtime heartbreaker to Jon Alder to open the season and leading a tough Olentangy Liberty team into the fourth quarter before falling, the Monarchs don’t quit.
The local squad faced its toughest opponent of the season Friday at home in a one-loss Olentangy team. As in previous games, the Monarchs took the Braves’ best punches, but stood tied 14-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
In the end, however, a late touchdown pass by the Delaware County squad put the Monarchs away, 21-14, and sent them into the start of conference play with a 2-3 record.
“Our kids are willing to compete with anyone right now,” MHS coach Brent Johnson said after the game. “Our defense really battled tonight, man.”
The stat sheet shows a game a little more lopsided than the one reflected on the scoreboard.
Marysville could muster only 148 yards of offense on the night, 124 of which came on the ground. Potent running back Thomas Rush was held to 30 yards on 11 carries, but did haul in a nine-yard touchdown pass.
Monarch QB Walker Heard threw the ball 11 times, which is a season’s worth in the ground-oriented Marysville offense. Heard completed just three throws for 24 yards and a touchdown, but did fall victim of a few drops.
The Braves ran for 178 yards on the night and quarterback Riley Bruening completed 12-of-19 passes for 208 yards. Bruening had success on slants and deep routes that attacked the middle of the Monarch defense.
Johnson explained that Marysville had seen on film that teams had found success in putting pressure on Bruening by blitzing. To free up pass rushers, the Monarchs played a lot of man coverage.
The Monarchs failed to get consistent pressure on the senior signal caller and as a result he was able to scan the field for the matchups he wanted, which were often between the hashes.
“He showed a lot of poise in the pocket,” Johnson said.
Some coaches say that the story of a game can be told in success on first down. Others believe converting on third down and moving the chains is a gauge of success.
On Friday night, Olentangy lived and died on fourth down.
Three times the Braves turned the ball over on downs, all three on incomplete passes.
However, Olentangy attempted to convert five fourth-down passes and the other two went for touchdowns.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bruening opened the scoring in the second by completing a fourth-down pass over the middle to Adam Primm, who took the ball 23 yards to paydirt. The point after gave the Braves a 7-0 lead with 9:49 left in the half.
Marysville answered with its fourth punt of the first half, but the Monarch defense came up with a strip on a completed pass. Rush fell on the ball at the Olentangy 44 with 6:53 left in the half.
As it turns out, the Monarchs needed every bit of the clock to cover those yards.
Rush picked up a first down and teammate Chase Kilgore followed with some tough running to move the chains and put the ball at the 20.
From there, Marysville faced fourth-and-one at the 11, but Heard and his offensive line surged forward for three yards and a fresh set of downs.
Marysville face third down at the four, but an illegal shift pushed the ball back to the nine as the gamed moved to under a minute left in the half.
Heard dropped back to pass and appeared locked on a receiver heading in to the right corner of the end zone,. He quickly pivoted and found Rush in the left flat with a blocker. Rush made his way to the end zone with just 15 seconds left in the half.
The point after by Thomas Wolfe never got more than eight feet off the ground and sailed under the crossbar, leaving the Monarchs trailing 7-6 at the half.
The Braves faced fourth-and-six in MHS territory early in the second half when Bruening found Caden Kaiser on a slant over the middle. He found a seam for a 39-yard score and subsequent PAT put the score at 14-6 with 8:40 left in the third.
Again, Marysville’s offense followed with a punt, and again the Braves tried to convert a fourth down in Monarch territory but failed.
With the third quarter rapidly ticking away, Monarch wing Bodie Eberhart took a double handoff inside and broke up the right sidelines for a 57-yard touchdown.
Heard ran the two-point try in to tie the game at 14-14 with 39 seconds left in the third.
The teams traded punts as the fourth quarter clock moved under eight minutes. Pinned deep, the Braves’ offense roared back to life marching 82 yards over the next five minutes to take the lead.
Bruening provided the dagger with his third TD toss of the game, this one a seven-yard pass to Primm in the back left corner of the end zone. The point after closed out the scoring at 21-14 with 2:31 left in the game.
The ground-dominant run game of Marysville was forced into the back seat as the Monarchs gave the first glimpse of their two-minute offense. But passing the ball vertically is not what the local squad is built for and except for a pass interference call on Olentangy, the home crowd had little to cheer for down the stretch.
The Monarchs (2-3), who will travel to Dublin Coffman on Friday, eventually turned the ball over on downs and the Braves killed the clock.
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