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Marion Local continues its winning tradition

LIMA — Seneca East was only facing one team Friday night in the Division VI state semifinals.

But, when you are reminded that No. 3 Marion Local is from the MAC — the Midwest Athletic Conference — it feels as though you are taking on an entire league.

The Tigers fell 34-6, but the MAC is such a dominant conference, sometimes it begs the question of what is in the water “over there?”

“We have great kids, great communities, and solid families,” Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. “You get good coaches that stay because you have all that support. The other teams in the league make you better all year long.”

The MAC has racked up an astronomical 130 team state championships, including 33 in football. Marion Local leads the way with 10 of those state championships and will undoubtedly be the favorites to make it 131 team titles including 34 in football and 11 for the Flyers next Friday.

Coldwater, Delphos St. John’s, Versailles and St. Henry each have won six championships while Minster has three and Fort Recovery one.

To compare the playoff success of Marion Local and Seneca East, you do not have to look further back than just a few seasons. Marion Local won a mind-boggling 24 straight playoff games from 2011-15 and has a 38-1 record in the playoffs since the beginning of the 2011 playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Tigers were 0-6 in six previous playoff appearances before this season. Seneca East won its first three playoff games in school history this season.

“They are probably the best team we played,” Seneca East coach Ed Phillips said.

Five of Versailles’ six titles came before they joined the MAC, but the 38 titles by current members are by far the most by any conference. The second-closest total is 24 championships by the Greater Catholic League, which includes Cincinnati heavyweights Moeller, St. Xavier, Elder and LaSalle.

The MAC has racked up a 72-4 record in first round playoff games against non-MAC schools, and that includes two losses in the past two seasons by Anna. The MAC is 51-13 in regional championship games against non-MAC schools, and is now 37-7 in state semifinal games against non-MAC schools.

“They are big, they are fast, and they are strong,” Seneca East running back Blaine Swartzmiller said. “They are anything you could want. They are an army.”

Despite the dominance, the schools vary in size, often allowing more than one school to win a title in a given season. In fact, the MAC has won at least two state titles eight times since 2005, including five of the last six years. The conference did one better in 2014, taking home three state championships — Coldwater in Division V, Minster in Division VI and Marion Local in Division VII.

“We are not going to see anything in the playoffs that we have not fought through every week during the season,” Goodwin said.

With Friday’s win, the Flyers increased their playoff win total to 76 wins, which is the most all-time. Coldwater is second with 73, Delphos St. John’s is tied for eighth with 54 and Versailles is tied for 11th at 45 wins.

Marion Local also holds the record for highest winning percentage at 88.4 (76-10 record). MAC schools dominate this category as DSJ is second at 81.8 percent (54-12), St. Henry is third at 80.4 percent (45-11), Coldwater is fourth at 80.2 percent (73-18), and Versailles is sixth at 79 percent (45-12).

“I have been through Tinora, Ayersville and Hillsdale,” Swartzmiller said. “Marion Local is like a whole other animal. I am just glad we got to where we are.”

This past school year, Marion Local became the fourth school ever to win the football and boys basketball championships in the same school year. In the 2013-2014 school year, Coldwater became the eighth school to take home a football and baseball state title in the same school year.

When Marion Local takes on No. 1 Kirtland (14-0) next Friday at 10 a.m., it will be going for its 11th state championship, which would tie Division I powerhouse Cleveland St. Ignatius’ 11 titles.

All that was said to say this: Seneca East has nothing to hang its head over. The most successful season is school history ran into a buzzsaw that would beat a lot of teams bigger in size than it.

“I am extremely proud to be on this team,” Swartzmiller said. “We put our heart on the line, not only for ourselves, but for each other. I am proud of my grade for stepping up as the leaders they are.”

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