Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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Separated only by their years and a few houses, Marion Local’s Adam Bertke and head coach Tim Goodwin have a good thing going on.  At home, yes, but best of all, on the football field.

MARIA STEIN - They are not your average neighbors.  The precocious teenage boy full of ambition and energy to pursue any and all challenges…and the older man who lives down the street with family, career, and the responsibilities of an entire community on his shoulders.

Nor is it the scenario of the once-popular Dennis The Menace sitcom of the 60s.  No slingshots, no handprints in wet cement, no Dennis and no Mr. Wilson.

And while everyone has to live someplace, near someone, these two have a relationship forged over far less frivolous things than tree houses and broken window panes in the quiet farming community of Maria Stein, Ohio.

Junior Adam Bertke is the returning quarterback and all-state candidate of the reigning Division VI football champion Marion Local Flyers.

The man down the street, with the family, a dog, and the community responsibilities of which we spoke, is Tim Goodwin, Bertke’s coach, high school principal, and the winner of five state titles in his twelve years as the Flyers’ head coach.

While the Flyers are always a candidate to compete for a title, it was not expected in 2011.  That is, until they caught lightning in a bottle with the emergence of a sophomore quarterback, who 1) led his team through the gauntlet of the Midwest Athletic Conference regular season with a talented Marion complement of Heitkamps and Homans, Pierons and Goettemoellers, 2) who coolly executed a five-game sweep of the post-season playoffs, capped by a 61-21 win over Buckeye Central in the Division VI title game, and 3) a 13-2 overall record.

Bertke complete 14 of 19 passing attempts in the title game, for 278 yards and four touchdowns, more than half of the Flyers total of 487 total yards for the game.

"Adam really did last year what we saw him do as a freshman," says Marion coach Tim Goodwin. "But last year he was surrounded by experienced talent. This year will be a different test for him."

With the passing of the past twelve years, there are few ironies left to observe about Marion Local football.  And likewise, there is no irony over the typical relationship between head coach and quarterback.  Show me a championship and I’ll show you communication, admiration, and mutual respect between the two.

“It’s not like we live next to each other,”  chuckles Goodwin, who while talking about his “neighborhood quarterback” recently was nonetheless packing to move to a different address..

“It’s nothing like Dennis The Menace.  He doesn’t get in my ‘fridge and eat all my food.  I actually don’t see him that much away from school because Adam’s really busy.  He has a lot of things going on.  I just know his family well and he grew up playing with the kids in the neighborhood, including mine.”

Adam Bertke, indeed, is a busy guy.  The third youngest of four children in his family, he’s a three-sport athlete at Marion (football, basketball, and baseball).  He attended three football camps this summer.  He plays AAU basketball, works, and hangs out with his friends.  On top of his activities, he maintains a 3.5 GPA in school.

And dedicated?  On the evening we caught up with him recently he had spent the day roofing in 98-degree heat.

His year has been a whirlwind, to say the least.  Immediately after winning the state football title last December he came home to basketball season.  Basketball blended into spring and baseball.

“It took a while for things to slow down a little,”  he said quietly.  “I wish we could have had a longer tournament run in basketball, and then baseball started.  Football is my favorite, but I play all three because I like them all.”

It seems that winning begats winning at Marion, and always…an expectation of improvement.  Immediatley after baseball ended Bertke was off to football camps at Toledo, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

“I’m always trying to improve and the camps were very helpful.  I really liked Michigan State.  I learned a lot there, but the coaching staff and Coach Meyer were just incredible at Ohio State.  They work you hard and they push you to the limit at the camps.  That’s the way I want it.

“I threw the ball pretty well, and they worked with me on standing taller in the pocket and with how to improve my footwork.  It’ll definitely help me this year.”

Not surprising to those who saw him play last fall as a sophomore, he impressed at all three camps, coming home with his first Division I offer…from Toledo.  The least surprised of all…was Tim Goodwin.

“We expected him to have the kind of year he had last year,”  says Goodwin.  “Really, it was what we saw him do during his freshman year.  He does some impressive things.  Last year he was just a cog in a talented senior-laden team.  What he did for us athletically was just a bonus, but this year will be a different test for him.

“We graduated a large senior class.  We only have six seniors returning and we’ll obviously look to him for a lot of additional leadership this year on the field.  We’ll build around Adam Bertke this year, and we haven’t had to do that too much in the past.  We usually have the players that just go out and do their jobs and it all comes together.  This year, if we’re going to be successful Adam will have to make plays for us.”

——————–

If he impresses you on the football field, Adam Bertke is no less impressive when you meet him in person.

At 6’6” inches and listed at 212 pounds, he’s statuesque standing back in the pocket with a football, looking over opposing defenses.

As a personality, he seems reserved, yet confident, and cordial.  He appreciates the attention he’s beginning to attract, without expecting it.  The kind of guy you’d like to see your daughter date, he’s just a nice kid.  In communities like Maria Stein they like to say that he’s a reflection of his parents, Mike and Renee.

But make no mistake, playing his position can have some maturing consequences.  And when you talk with him it doesn’t take long to realize that Adam Bertke is maturing rapidly, on and off the field.

“I like to hang out with my friends, and all of them are athletes,”  he says with a smile.  “Everyone plays sports at Marion Local.  I play three sports because it’s fun. But I do look forward to the responsibility of what’s expected of me this year.  I want to be leader.  I want to make the plays that make the offense go.  Last year I had the talent around me that was accustomed to making the plays.  But now we’re younger, and if I screw up everything gets screwed up and I don’t want that.  I just want to get better each day.  I want to make the plays.”

He did that every game last year, with the possible exception of the Flyers’ mid-year loss to Delphos St. John.  While owning the reality that he still has a lot to learn, Adam Bertke, for better or worse,  has yet to have many bad moments as a football player.

“I threw some bad balls and had three interceptions on opening night.  That was probably my worst personal moment.  But we came back and won.  I learned from it.

“Against Delphos we came out kinda’ slow and lazy and got down.  That was our down moment of the year as a team.  We turned things around right away, but we ran out of time.  Against good teams you can’t do that.  We learned from that, too, and got better each week.  By the end of the year we were all playing good football.”

With large graduation losses, the handwriting is on the wall for Goodwin and the 2012 Flyers, even with Adam Bertke as the instrument with which he writes.

In football terms Goodwin speaks of each season being a different kind of puzzle to figure out…and admits to spending more time planning during this off-season than any other during his time at Marion.

“We’ll have to do some things different, for sure,”  he assures.  “We’ll start from a different point of view with our offense and work from there.  We’ve always had a few key kids in our offense coming back, like the fullback and tight end.  Not now.  We only have those six seniors this year, by far the fewest I’ve ever had…and only 18 juniors and seniors.  So we’ll have to work through some things.  We’ll see how it goes.”

Unbecoming to his years, the success, and the titles, Goodwin concludes, “I’m a little nervous.”

“The league will be like it always is.  Coldwater has a lot of returning talent and they’ll be a favorite.  Versailles will have a lot of athletes.  St. Henry will be better. St. John had a great JV team last year.  They’ve got a great running back and they’ll be very strong.  Minster lost some good linemen, but they’ve very deep at the skill positions.  Parkway impressed last year, and Anna is always tough to figure out.”

He appreciates being a champion, the attention, and the opportunities that come from being part of the Marion tradition. "But if there was no attention and no one wanted to talk to me it would OK. It would still be fun to be where I am," says Bertke.

We mentioned that Adam Bertke is appreciative?  In a league of outstanding returning quarterbacks he admits to watching his rivals perform with respect.

“I like to see what they do against our defense because I play against our defense every day.  I watch and I see quarterbacks make good throws and that used to be kind of intimidating.  But I saw Austin Bruns make throws in camp this year that I can make.  And I don’t know how people might compare us, or me with others, but I think I can be just as good as anyone if I keep working…one day.”

That part about impressive, on and off the field?  It’s hard when you’re young, with early success, to fully appreciate it.  When you’re the object of attention sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re a product of your environment.  Not so with Adam.

“I think about winning that state championship every day,”  he said last week, concluding our interview.  “I think about being from a community like this all the time.  We’ve had a lot of success, yes.  But when it comes it’s still special.

“I’m very blessed to grow up here…to have the talent that I have, to have the family I have, and the support that I have.  When you have that you realize that you really want to make the most of it.”

And that part about being the neighborhood quarterback?

If your daughter ever did bring him home you could do worse than have Adam Bertke get in your ‘fridge and eat your food.  You’d probably smile…and offer him seconds!

With a hundred-year tradition of great food and great service to the Shelby County community, the Spot is proud to sponsor area sports and the OHSAA state tournaments on Press Pros Magazine.com

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