Marion-Franklin Tops Athens In Regional Final

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A whistle blew in Logan before the start of the Division III Region 9 final between the Athens Bulldogs and Marion-Franklin Red Devils Friday night. 

The distant sound of a train seemed to spark the Red Devils as they entered the freezing stadium, never ceasing to handle the energy of the game taking the win 38-7.

The Bulldog crowd fired up with about two minutes remaining in the first half.  Athens trailed 12-0 and the ‘Dogs needed to capitalize on their final drive of the second quarter. During their possession of the ball, two flags flew after an Athens first down play. One flag came due to an illegal Marion-Franklin substitution for five yards. Another came after the play, due to a personal foul on Athens for 15 yards. 

The officials at first did not recognize the Athens first down, driving the packed stands of green and gold wild.  After minutes of talking over the play, the officials finally switched their original call and awarded the Bulldogs their first down.

This first down, however, did not lead to a touchdown. Omar Alfred snatched a pass in the end zone intended for Ryan Luerhman and sent the Bulldogs to the locker room still trailing by 12.     

Marion-Franklin’s red-hot defensive line and impressive backfield stifled the Athens offense. The Bulldogs could not manage their usual dynamic numbers, only garnering 388 total yards compared to the Red Devils’ 513 yards. Athens also came into this matchup averaging over 51 points per game. The Bulldogs simply had not seen a team like Marion-Franklin this season.

Alfred got on the board first for the Red Devils with only minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Marion-Franklin squad focused on holding onto the ball and dominated time of possession, due large in part to running back Jhulyis Monroe. Monroe and fellow back Shannon Royster led the way for a Red Devils rushing attack that gathered 470 yards on the ground.

On the following drive when Burrow led a march down the field, the Red Devil D struck again and forced a pick. This interception took the wind out of the Bulldogs. 

The Red Devils’ often pressured Burrow and forced him to scramble. Although Marion-Franklin heavily contested Burrow, he still pulled out 358 passing yards and one touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs often ran short slant routes or screen pass plays, forgoing their typical long-ball style of play. Burrow completed 28 of his 49 attempts. 

Athens failed to execute key conversions into the second quarter. After halftime the Red Devil offense stepped into full gear, producing four touchdowns in the second half. 

Joe Burrow finished his 2013 season with a 71.2 completion rate and 3,732 passing yards. Trae Williams gained 1,702 yards in his junior season on the ground with 30 touchdowns. Both players will return next season. 

The Marion-Franklin Red Devils advance to the state semi-finals.