When the MAC meets Kirtland, There's Respect On Both Sides

Staff Writer

Sometimes the Midwest Athletic Conference team gets the better of Kirtland. Sometimes the Hornets emerge with the championship trophy.

The common denominator when powerful MAC football programs and the Northeastern Ohio power program meet is respect.

Kirtland has played Minster, Coldwater and Marion Local in state championship games over the past seven seasons, with the Hornets going 2-2 against MAC squads. Coldwater and Kirtland split championship games in 2011 and 2012. Minster rallied to beat Kirtland 46-42 in 2014. The Hornets stung Marion Local 22-20 in 2015.

The latest chapter should be another great match-up.

As Marion Local and Kirtland meet again for a state championship on Saturday — this time a 10 a.m. game for the Division VI state crown at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton — Kirtland head coach Tiger LaVerde said it’s a game of opponents with a great deal of respect for each other.

“The one thing that stands out to me is how great their fans are,” LaVerde said. “They understand that these are high school sports and about sportsmanship and how we’re trying to teach these guys about more than just football. We’ve played Minster, Coldwater and Marion Local and our fans always talk about how nice the MAC schools’ fans are. How they tell us good luck out in the parking lot before the game and the respect they have for high school sports. I think our fans at Kirtland are similar. It’s been a great experience playing MAC schools and they’ve all been pretty good games.”

In another CVC-MAC match-up, Minster will play Cuyahoga Heights on Friday morning for the Division VII state crown.

Marion Local looks to win its 10th state title program history on Saturday. They’d already have reached double-digits if it hadn’t been for a second half comeback by Kirtland in the 2015 state title game in the Horseshoe.

The Hornets are a physical bunch that stick with what they do well no matter what, Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said.

“It’s their mindset,” Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin said of a Hornet program built on its tough-nosed style of running the ball. “They’re unique. Most teams you stop their running game early in the game, they’ll try something else. Kirtland is not going to panic. That’s that’s the biggest thing. That’s what makes them unique. If we’d played Kirtland 15 years ago, it would’ve been easier to prepare for. Now it’s unique.”

Goodwin’s gang entered the season young and inexperienced, with just two returning starters on both sides of the ball. Revenge won’t be a big part of this year’s game, Goodwin said. Only one player was on t he field when Kirtland upset the Flyers 22-20 in the 2015 state title game. “Maybe if we had played them last year in the state championship game, it would’ve played a part,” he said.

LaVerde just remembers just how physical the Flyers were two seasons ago. “Shaking their hands after the game, I couldn’t believe how tall they all were,” he said.

“They don’t have very many weaknesses,” LaVerde said of a Flyer team that has allowed more than 10 points in a game just three times this season.