A year hasn't healed the wounds. The game is still fresh in the minds of the Wildcat players and coaches. The game is also still on the tongues of the residents of Mogadore and Maria Stein.
Last year's game is once again the talk of both towns, but the coaches of Mogadore and Marion Local have warned their players not to pay attention as the rematch draws near.
The Wildcats and Flyers will meet for a second time at 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, and once again the Division VI state championship will be on the line.
"I'm sure our kids will be hearing all week about last year, and that's not going to help us prepare for this week's game," said Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin. "Basically, I tell them that they are hearing a bunch of garbage about last year, and they have to put that out of their mind right away."
The obvious assumption: Marion Local won 54-0 last year. Why won't it be a walk in the park again this year?
"After what happened, I'm sure a lot of people wondered if we really deserved to be there last year," said Mogadore coach Scott Pollock.
Goodwin has no doubt that Mogadore deserved to be in the state championship game. In fact, he knows the 54-0 outcome was an aberration.
"The way I look at last year's game, coach Pollock did some things to try to get them back in the game after they were down," said Goodwin. "It was a really close game in the first half. In fact, it very easily could have been 21-14 going into the half, because they had two long drives. (Pollock) tried a couple of things that could have worked and made him look like a genius. They didn't work and that kind of made the score magnified. We definitely were a lot closer than the score."
According to Pollock, once his team fell behind "everything started to snowball."
"We just had some things go wrong early, and then once we got down, we tried everything we could possibly do to get back into it," said Pollock. "Nothing went right. We tried passing, fake punts, onside kicks. We always promise the kids that if we ever get to the state championship, we will be there to win. We are not going to say afterwards, 'O.K., we only got beat by two points.'
"If you are going to win a state championship, you might have to take some chances. It doesn't matter if you are down by three points or 50 points, you keep trying everything you can until the game is out of reach."
Pollock said he will never forget the feeling he had when he walked off the Paul Brown Stadium field after the game.
"I remember I felt really bad for the kids," said Pollock. "They worked so hard. At the same time, I remember thinking about all the stuff that is really important. That game was important to us, but there are much more important things in life. I also remember thinking we need to get back here. We need to get back to the championship game."
That's just what the Wildcats did. They refused to crawl back to the cave and lick their wounds. They returned to the weight room in the offseason. They returned to the practice field in August. Through it all they had one thing on their collective minds _ finding their way back to the state championship game.
Mogadore earned its return trip by sweeping through the regular season and the playoffs with a perfect 14-0 record.
That run was highlighted by great team and individual performances. Jon Raddish ran for 1,708 yards and 24 touchdowns and was named Division VI defensive player of the year as a linebacker. Raddish was joined on the All-Ohio first team by end Mike Wagner (38 catches, 893 yards, 9 touchdowns) and running back Tommy Lee (1,189 yards and 19 touchdowns).
"This is a very special team," said Pollock. "Every day in practice, it is fun. When we watch film, it is fun. This is a great group to be around. Every day I look forward to being at practice.
"They've worked so hard, but really I don't think they even realize what they've done yet," said Pollock. "To get to the state championship game one time is a great accomplishment. They know how last year ended. They know the reality of what happened. They are really, really blessed and fortunate to be back."
While the bulk of Mogadore's team is intact from last season, Marion Local has several new faces. The Flyers lost 12 starters from their championship team.
Mogadore will recognize one Flyer player who was a thorn in their side last season. Greg Schulte ran for 190 yards and a pair of game-sealing, second-half touchdowns against the Wildcats. He returned to earn All-Ohio honors at running back this season, rushing for 1,938 yards on 319 carries.
The Wildcats are excited to get another chance at Schulte and the Flyers.
"We feel really fortunate to be playing them again," said Pollock. "It's not because of the revenge factor, but because we feel we didn't represent ourselves well. We're happy because we have a chance to do a better job of representing Mogadore, our league and our area."
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