It had been a full year since the Marion-Franklin High School football team played Big Walnut in the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.
But the Red Devils remembered that 24-12, regional-semifinal loss like it was yesterday when they battled the Golden Eagles in the rematch Friday, Nov. 11, at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Junior quarterback Corry Benson made sure the outcome was different this time, as he ran for four touchdowns, threw for two scores and had a hand in all of the points Red Devils scored in a 44-17 win over the Golden Eagles in a regional semifinal.
“Corry played really, really well and I’m so proud of him,” Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele said. “We wanted this one real bad because whenever someone beats you, you want to come back and get them. It was special. You could tell how (we) came out.”
Benson scored on runs of 6 and 1 yards and threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Joe Alverson and Jaron Dukes in the first half, as the Red Devils took a 30-3 lead into halftime.
“We knew Big Walnut was going to fight and we overcame some adversity in the third quarter and got the job done,” Benson said. “Once we saw they couldn’t stop our passing game, that opened things up for me and the line played very well.”
The top seed in the region, Marion-Franklin improved to 12-0 and advanced to play second-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in the regional final at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at a site to be determined. Tri-Valley beat third-seeded New Albany 24-7 in a regional semifinal Nov. 11.
Seeded fourth, Big Walnut finished 9-3.
“They are a heck of a football team,” Big Walnut coach Joe Weaver said of the Red Devils. “They’ve got great athletes and coaches. (Benson and Alverson) are remarkable athletes and it’s a tough task to slow them down.”
The Red Devils scored on their first four possessions to open a 27-point lead, but Big Walnut put a scare into Marion-Franklin in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles took the second-half kickoff and drove 62 yards in 16 plays, capping the drive with a 1-run by Joey Johnson to make the score 30-10. Grant Burks then recovered an onside kick, setting up an 8-yard touchdown run by Lucas Garcia three plays later to make it 30-17.
Big Walnut got the ball back on the next play from scrimmage, as Alverson fumbled after a 7-yard reception from Benson. The Golden Eagles drove to the Red Devils’ 8, where quarterback Tyler Beam threw to Seth Myers, who lost the ball just before crossing the goal line and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a Marion-Franklin touchback.
Benson added a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter after a fake punt gave Marion-Franklin possession on Big Walnut’s 32. He then closed the scoring with an 8-yard run with 9 minutes, 3 seconds remaining.
“Corry and (Alverson) are game-breakers, but they couldn’t do it without the offensive line,” Haffele said. “When you line Jaron Dukes and (Alverson) side-by-side, defenses have to pick their poison and both made big plays.”
Benson ran for 109 yards on 11 carries and was 12-for-16 passing for 140 yards. Alverson had seven catches for 89 yards and Darien Williams had three for 37.
Garcia had 93 yards rushing on 21 carries. Beam ran for 83 yards on 10 carries and was 14-for-29 passing for 131 yards.
BIG WALNUT 3 0 14 0 -- 17
MARION-FRANKLIN 15 15 0 14 -- 44
MF--Benson 6 run (Benson run)
BW--Gibson 38 FG
MF--Benson 1 run (pass failed)
MF--Alverson 12 pass from Benson (Benson run)
MF--Dukes 12 pass from Benson (Dukes pass from Benson)
BW--Johnson 1 run (Gibson kick)
BW--Garcia 8 run (Gibson kick)
MF--Benson 1 run (Alverson pass from Benson)
MF--Benson 8 run (run failed)