MASSILLON, Ohio (AP) - Hunter Wilker had not practiced even one play at running back all year.MASSILLON, Ohio (AP) - Hunter Wilker had not practiced even one play at running back all year.
Pressed into service due to injuries, the freshman wide receiver ran for three touchdowns to lead Maria Stein Marion Local to its sixth state football championship, a 28-21 win over Newark Catholic on Friday.
Wilker scored on a 1-yard run with 21 seconds left to put the Flyers (13-2) ahead.
Newark Catholic (12-3), seeking its ninth state title, incredibly drove into position to tie it, but Nate Nagel broke up a potential touchdown at the goal line with no time left.
"This is the toughest game I've ever coached," said Tim Goodwin, whose record at the small school from western Ohio improved to 154-40. "Of all the championships, this was the hardest, without a doubt."
The Flyers repeated as champions despite losing starting tailback Jacy Goettemoeller to a leg injury on the first drive of the game and his replacement Aaron Nietfeld with a shoulder problem in the third quarter.
"Losing Jacy took the wind out of our sails, but the kids stayed focused, worked hard, and did the job," Goodwin said.
"Hunter was a running back in junior high. We played him at wide receiver because we had other runners ahead of him. He hadn't practiced at tailback all year, but came in and didn't miss a beat.
"And what can I say about Nate? He had not played much at all, and they went at him with the game on the line. He made the play. That's not coaching. That's character."
Chayce Croch threw two TD passes and had a 5-yard TD run for Newark Catholic.
"We didn't win, but we gave every fiber that we possess," Green Wave coach Bill Franks said.
Franks was choked with emotion as he spoke of Newark Catholic's first run to the title game since winning its eighth championship in 2007.
"I love these kids," Franks said, fighting back tears. "To get here was a wonderful ride."
Marion Local has won all six of its championships since 2000. Newark Catholic dominated in the 1980s, winning five titles and getting three runner-up finishes in that decade.
"These guys are the new giants and we're the old giants," Franks said. "But we haven't gone away."
Wilker scored from 6 yards 19 seconds left in the first half. Moved to running back after Nietfeld went down, Wilker picked his way through the right side for an 11-yard TD with 18 seconds left in the third quarter for a 21-14 lead.
Newark Catholic tied it at 21 on a 20-yard pass from Croch to Kevin Bourne, who finished with 121 yards on seven receptions overall.