BY ROGER METZGER
Times-Reporter sports writer
DOVER After a triple overtime loss to archrival New Philadelphia, it was in question whether Dover would make the OHSAA football playoffs for a ninth straight season.
But when it was all said and done, the Tornadoes had done just that.
And that’s all that mattered to the Crimson and Gray.
To modify a quote from NFL Hall of Famer Al Davis: “Just get in, baby.”
Dover will take a 7-3 record to 9-1 Columbus Marion-Franklin for a Division III regional high school football quarterfinal at 7:30 tonight.
The Tornadoes finished seventh in Region 9 after getting some help from Toledo Waite on Saturday, while the Red Devils claimed the second spot in the region.
Dover head coach Dan Ifft said making the postseason never gets old, especially after a run to the Division III state semifinals a year ago.
“We’re playing in Week 11,” stated Ifft. “It’s good for our seniors. We’d rather not have to go to Columbus, but it is what it is, and it’s better than sitting at home.”
Marion-Franklin, on the south side of Columbus, is making its 10th consecutive appearance in the postseason and 10th overall. The Red Devils recently won the Columbus City League South Division title for a 10th straight time.
The Red Devils feature a quality line up front that averages 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds.
Leading the way on the Red Devils’ line are seniors Martesse Patterson (OT/DE/DT), DeVante Collins (OG/DT) and Ricky Jackson (OG/DT).
The 6-5, 305-pound Patterson has received 20 Division I scholarship offers from the likes of Kentucky, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Cincinnati. Collins (5-10, 330) and Jackson (6-1, 330) also are imposing figures on the Red Devils’ line.
Marion-Franklin averages 34 points per game and allows just 11. The most points the Red Devils have given up was 28 in a 28-14 loss to Columbus Bishop Hartley, their lone setback of the season.
The Red Devils are primarily a run-oriented team with more than 2,000 yards on the ground this season.
Senior Landon Yeartie leads the way with 462 yards on 97 carries and eight touchdowns, and senior quarterback Justin Tyler is right behind with 378 yards is 60 carries and eight more scores. Senior Jhulyis Monroe has added 333 yards rushing.
Three other players have 150 yards rushing yards or more for the Red Devils.
But Marion-Franklin can pass the ball as well, as Tyler has completed 47 of 85 passes for 914 yards and 12 touchdowns against three interceptions.
“They run it more than throw it, but their quarterback is so doggone athletic,” noted Ifft. “That’s a concern for us.”
Dover is in the postseason for the 17th time in school history.
Marion-Franklin head coach Brian Haffele is impressed with the Dover program.
“Dover has been and is a very good football program, which is coached by a hall of fame coach,” said Haffele. “They played a good schedule so they will be battle tested. On offense, they do a nice job throwing the football to many different people. On defense, they run to the ball very well as well and they’re physical.”
Junior wide receiver Cory Contini is Dover’s explosive weapon on offense, having caught 78 passes for 1,348 yards and 19 scores. He also has four rushing touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Merrick Mamarella has thrown for nearly 1,900 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with almost 400 yards and four scores.
Senior Mick Fishel and junior Alex Bowman lead the Tornadoes’ defense with more than 100 tackles apiece.
Haffele said his team has to play fundamental football.
“For us to win, we will have to play assignment football on defense and tackle well,” said Haffele. “On offense, we will have to make plays when our guys get into space. This game will be a close one. Turnovers and penalties could be the difference.”
“We can’t turn the ball over,” said Ifft. “If we do, it will be one and done for us.”