The Marion-Franklin High School football team was in uncharted territory even before it rallied for a 31-24 victory over Brookhaven last Friday at Gahanna in the Division II, Region 7 championship game.

The Marion-Franklin High School football team was in uncharted territory even before it rallied for a 31-24 victory over Brookhaven last Friday at Gahanna in the Division II, Region 7 championship game.

On Friday at Centerville in a state semifinal, the Red Devils will attempt to keep the most successful playoff run in their history going against Cincinnati Winton Woods -- a team which likely will elicit one of their most painful memories from last season.

After Marion-Franklin beat Beechcroft 34-28 in double-overtime to post its first postseason victory a year ago, DeSales' triple-option offense got the better of it in a 31-23 decision in a regional semifinal.

Led by running back Jeremiah Goins (1,432 yards, 22 touchdowns) and quarterback Dominique Brown (1,130 yards, 21 touchdowns), the Warriors sport a similar high-powered offense.

Despite averaging just 51 yards passing, Winton Woods has scored 40.1 points per game on its way to an 11-2 record.

The winner plays for the state championship at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

"It'll be like playing DeSales all over again," Marion-Franklin coach Brian Haffele said. "They don't throw the ball much at all. They run the triple-option, with a lot of double-wing option and mid-line option. Their quarterback (Brown) is (6-foot-3), 215 (pounds) and runs the ball really well, and they've got a big fullback who runs pretty hard with two wing-back guys. Their offensive line is above average but not DeSales' size. We played with DeSales and we feel like we're better than we were a year ago on defense, so we're going to try and match up athlete on athlete."

While the Red Devils were the eighth seed in Region 7, Winton Woods won Region 8 as the second seed, beating fourth-seeded Trotwood-Madison 28-7 last Friday. The Warriors were Region 8 runners-up last year.

"Winton Woods is a pretty good team," Haffele said. "We told our kids that we have to play our game to have a shot. We have to do the things we need to do to defend them, but likewise they have to defend us. We feel like we can move the ball on them. It's going to come down to turnovers and mistakes."

The Red Devils advanced to the state's final four by avenging a 23-21 loss to the Bearcats in the opener on Aug. 29.

After Brookhaven took a 10-0 lead, Marion-Franklin scored 17 consecutive points before Ryland Ward returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to cut it to 17-16 late in the third quarter.

The Bearcats' Michael Sellers ran in from 50 yards on a reverse early in the fourth quarter, but the Red Devils' Verlon Reed hit Travonte Youngblood for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 8:17 to go to tie it. Amir Robinson scored the game-winning touchdown on a 26-yard run with 3:41 left.

Reed finished 10-for-20 passing for 170 yards and three touchdowns and also had 15 rushes for 105 yards as Marion-Franklin improved to 11-2.

Last Friday, the Bearcats got 113 yards rushing on 11 carries from senior running back Antwonne White. Sophomore quarterback Tajuan Green was 7-for-17 passing for 95 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to senior William Tweedy.

Tweedy and White were among the top players in a 22-member senior class for the Bearcats, who finished 9-3 overall and went 7-0 to win the City League-North Division for the third consecutive season.

Senior defensive lineman Derrick Bryant and senior defensive back Ryland Ward both made first-team all-district, while senior defensive tackle Zaphere Carroll and senior linebacker Demetrus Johnson both made the second team. Bryant has verbally committed to play for UCLA.

Seniors Marcus Reed (LB), Sellers (WR/DB) and Deonta Stenson (TE/DL) were special mention all-district and Green and junior Frank Marsh (RB/LB) both were honorable mention.

Other key seniors included DeShawn Alston (WR), DeCorey Evans (OL) and D.J. Greggs (DL).

Junior Donivan Lipsey emerged as the team's top running back by the postseason, rushing for 196 yards in a 27-20 overtime win over Walnut Ridge in a regional quarterfinal Nov. 6 and 171 in a 21-10 win over Logan in a regional semifinal Nov. 13.

Others eligible to return include junior Corey Marshall (OL/LB) and sophomore Johnzelle Meek (RB) and Ari Backus (OL/DL).

"No one expected us to be (in a regional final)," coach Anthony Thornton said. "The inexperience we had on the offensive line, for those guys to be able to get us to this point and to be able to rush the ball like we were able to rush the ball with the inexperience there, I'm proud of my guys. It was tough looking at my senior guys. They wanted it so much, but unfortunately it didn't happen for us (last Friday)."