A lackluster scrimmage Aug. 23 against Olentangy Liberty, not to mention a stable of promising running backs, gave the Marion-Franklin High School football team plenty of incentive entering its season opener Aug. 30, at Upper Arlington.
Capitalizing on their speed and size from the start, the Red Devils handcuffed Upper Arlington offensively and forced four turnovers en route to a 26-7 win.
Red Devils senior running back Landon Yeartie almost single-handedly outgained the Golden Bears, rushing for 127 yards and touchdowns of 40 and 15 yards on 15 carries. Yeartie's long score came on Marion-Franklin's first possession, and his second touchdown wrapped up the scoring with 1:32 left.
"I think we proved some people wrong tonight. We still have the athletes. We just reload," said Yeartie, whose team returned eight starters on defense and is seeking its 10th consecutive playoff appearance. "We saw their outside linebackers were playing inside and we could hit the bubble and get our run game working. Our offensive line blocked great."
UA was held to 131 total yards, 56 of which came on a run by senior running back Chris Frey to set up senior running back Chase Greenlee's 3-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Junior quarterback Kyle Kaparos threw two interceptions and the Bears lost two fumbles.
"They stuffed us at the line of scrimmage," UA coach Mike Golden said. "They did a great job of watching what we were trying to do running-wise. We couldn't protect well enough to take advantage of them blitzing. If they controlled the line of scrimmage, they were going to control the game, and that's what happened."
It was only 6-0 at halftime, but Marion-Franklin expanded the lead to 14-0 on the first drive of the second half. Prepared to kick an 18-yard field goal on fourth-and-goal at UA's 1-yard line, the teams traded timeouts. Marion-Franklin lined up with four backs, and 6-foot, 255-pound junior fullback A.J. Tarvin scored on a pitch.
Red Devils senior running back Jhulyis Monroe added a 54-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
"We've been in big games before, and I was sure to remind the guys this is only the first game," Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele said. "We handled ourselves very well tonight."
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final MARION-FRANKLIN 6 0 8 12 26 UPPER ARLINGTON 0 0 0 7 7
MF -- Yeartie 40 run (kick blocked)
MF--Tarvin 1 run (Tyler pass to Whitney)
MF -- Monroe 54 run (pass failed)
UA -- Greenlee 3 run (O'Brien kick)
MF --Yeartie 15 run (kick failed)