Marion Local finished off the run for its latest run at a state title as only Marion can do. They conquered another unsuspecting victim of the MAC.
(Ed. Note – With the start of high school football just eight weeks away, Press Pros will frequent our regular lineup of area sports coverage with some of the most popular football stories from last fall, starting with this one, “One For The Thumb”, recounting Marion Local winning its fifth state title in twelve years last December under coach Tim Goodwin. Enjoy.)
Massillon – Look, to talk about Marion Local’s 61-21 win over Buckeye Central Saturday in the Division VI state finals in conventional terms you’d probably resort to one of the normal cliches’, such as, “dream of a lifetime”.
That, of course, is all well and good when you’ve actually won five state titles. But to playoff opponents of Marion Local since 2000, I’m sure the dream has been something of a nightmare.
Of their now five football titles since that time the Flyers have made it something of a habit to cruise on the coattail of some lopsided scores. 54-0 in 2000, over Mogadore. 63-7 in 2001 over that same Mogadore team.
So it should have come as no surprise to coach Jason Ratliff and the Buckeye Central Bucks that their first trip to the state finals in 16 years, against Marion Local, would not be something they’ll want to remember.
And for the record, Buckeye Central’s last trip to the Finals came in 1995, against another MAC opponent, St. Henry…with a 10-7 loss.
But Marion’s latest win, in historical perspective, brings to mind the Pittsburgh Steelers during the Chuck Noll era as head coach, when after four Super Bowl wins in the 70s the cry in Pittsburgh became “One For The Thumb”, as in that coveted fifth Super Bowl ring. Tim Goodwin and the Marion Flyers accomplished that Saturday…in a rout. And by the time Goodwin got the Gatorade bath in the fourth quarter it was anti-climactic. They could have doused him at halftime and Jason Ratliff would have been fine with it.
Following an 8-yard run by senior Jake Heitkamp to open the scoring on an 8-play drive after the opening kickoff, the Flyers scored in every conceivable way possible.
An Alaric Keller fumble recovery and 38 yard return for a score.
A Kellen Goettemiller 13-yard pass reception from Adam Bertke for a touchdown.
A Lee Pierron 17-yard reception from Bertke for the first of his three touchdowns on the afternoon.
Another Pierron reception, 11 yards from Bertke to make the score 34-0 at halftime.
After Buckeye had scored on early in the third period, Pierron hauled in a 49-yard bomb from Bertke for another score.
Heitkamp tallied again at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter from six yards to make the score 47-7.
It’s also ironic to add…that when the Marion lead was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, an anonymous Buckeye lineman resorted to another cliche’. “Come on,” he bellowed. “These guys aren’t “that” good.”
Oh yes they are. They may not turn handsprings over the presentation of a championship trophy, as Trotwood did on the occasion of their first, 18 hours before. But to have won five titles…to indeed have adorned the proverbial thumb under Tim Goodwin in just 12 years…is something pretty special.
And to make it more special, consider. There has been no prototype for the Flyers winning. Goodwin has done it with different talents, in different divisions, with big kids and average kids, running quarterbacks and throwers like sophomore Adam Bertke, who separated Buckeye from its own dream Saturday afternoon by completing 14 of 18 for 278 yards and those four touchdowns…three to Lee Pierron.
“It’s just awesome,” said the Bertke, who for 6’5″ and 200 pounds looks so young he might pass for a seventh grader. “When I grew up I dreamed of days like this because I was a ball boy on the 2007 team. Now I’m here and it’s such a great feeling. You could say the best is yet to come because I’m young and we’d like to come back here every year, but you don’t make any promises about things like that. Today is pretty good.”
For junior Lee Pierron, it represented the second time in as many weeks when the diminutive wideout had given his team the kind of offensive lift that made everyone else just relax and execute the moment.
“We just wanted to come out strong, which we did, and get on top of them. We didn’t want them to have any life early. This means so much to us, even with the other titles, because we were all young when we won the last one. We’ve been to the semis three of the last four years and to get here today and win is really amazing.”
They have always had a durable running back, one capable of carrying the ball 25 times and gaining a hundred yards. And for the fact, senior Jake Heitkamp probably comes as close to a prototypical Flyer football player as you’ll find. He had to wait for that opportunity, of course, playing behind Niles Keller for the past two seasons. But true to his wish after the Anna game, to make it to the state tournament and win, he joined an impressive list of Flyers prototypes of the past.
His credentials: 19 carries, 95 yards, and two touchdowns.
“It really feels good,” he beamed in the post-game press conference under Canton’s Fawcett Stadium. “I’m not sure I’ve gotten over last week’s win yet (in the semis), so I don’t know how long this one will take to sink in.
“Our line played so well today. They aren’t as big as some other teams but they really work hard. And Justin Rutschilling…last year he played on our JV team and this year made all-league. He got bigger, stronger and better in that one year. That’s the kind of guys we have at Marion.”
Tim Goodwin would tell you he had no dreams of his own of winning his fifth title in 2011. “We’re a little smaller, we have fewer players this year, and we’re pretty young at some key positions,” he said prior to the season. But prior to Saturday’s game he admitted…that while he couldn’t gauge in terms of percentage the improvement from then until now, this team had come a long way.
“My dad Bill coached at Allen East for 30 years and he even told me that this might not be our year,” said Goodwin. “But the thing is these kids are really smart, and when you have smart kids you can do so many things. They’re great to coach and we’ve really added a lot to our offense since the beginning of the season.”
But no smarter than Goodwin himself, who delights in football to the point of relishing the next, better competitive challenge, even while coaching in a state title game. Would it be out of the question to think…that while you’re up 54-7 in the third quarter he might have been thinking about how to beat Coldwater next year? I’m just saying?
“Championships are nice,” said Goodwin in the press conference. “But the reason we’re so successful is that the kids face good competition all the time and prepare for those games like we prepared for this one. We wanted to come out and attack them early with our passing game. We thought we could do that and the kids executed that plan.
“Winning five titles is not something you ever expect to accomplish. But we know that if we can compete in your league we’ve got a good shot at winning when we get here. We really don’t think in terms of doing anything different. We don’t think in terms of cranking anything up a notch. We’re always knocking on the door. It’s just that this year these guys were able to kick the door in. Now I have to go back home and deal with my kids and take care of the dogs.”
Unlike Chuck Noll, Tim Goodwin got that fifth ring for the thumb on Saturday. No big deal, if you know him. He’d never even take it upon himself to make that point.
But lest anyone, anywhere, in Division VI football mistake to the point of saying, “These guys aren’t “that” good”, take a minute and check the record book.
And then say publicly, or to yourself…oh yes, they are!
With its 100-year tradition of great food and great service to Shelby County, the “Spot” restaurant is proud to sponsor Shelby County League sports and the 4oth annual state football tournament on Press Pros.