CANTON -- A Midwest Athletic Conference team flexed its muscle in a Division VI title game again and another overmatched opponent winced.
Marion Local’s return to the state championship game for the sixth time turned into more of a three-hour long victory lap than a football game.
With the de facto title game a week ago against Delphos St. John’s out of the way, Saturday was about celebrating the Flyers’ return to championship form after a four-year hiatus.
The Flyers routed Buckeye Central 61-21 in the Division VI state championship game at Fawcett Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the school’s fifth state title.
The title means Marion Local head coach Tim Goodwin has led the Flyers to a fifth state title by the age of 40 years old.
“Believe it or not, it did seem like a long time since we’d been here,” Goodwin said.
Marion Local now also enters elite company in terms of total state titles won. The Flyers are one of only nine teams to have won five or more OHSAA state football championships. Four of those schools are MAC programs (Versailles, St. Henry and Delphos St. John’s have six titles apiece).
The Flyers had 487 yards of total offense and shined especially bright in the passing game.
Sophomore quarterback Adam Bertke lit up the Buckeye Central secondary, going 14-of-19 for 278 yards and four touchdowns.
“What you saw today is what we see every day in practice,” Goodwin said. “He’s on the money. He’s got the arm strength to make any throw that we could ask. Last week the play that jumpstarted us was from the Green Bay Packers that we called Lombardi that Aaron Rodgers hit one of his receivers with a triple move. I’ve never had a quarterback that we’ve called a triple move for. But this kid can throw it.”
Bertke lived on the same block as Goodwin growing up.
“We knew Adam Bertke was going to be a Marion Local quarterback someday, it was just a matter of when,” Goodwin said.
That time was this year. And he has two more years to only mature more into the role.
Bertke had a lot of help from his two speedsters at wide receiver.
Bertke connected with wide receiver Lee Pierron six times for 140 yards and three touchdowns, including a dazzling flea-flicker play that had running back Jake Heitkamp flip the ball back to Bertke who lofted a perfect pass over the arms of the safety and into the basket catch of Pierron for the 48 yard score to make it 40-7 early in the third quarter.
Dylan Thobe caught six passes for 114 yards.
“Their team speed affected us,” Buckeye Central head coach Jason Ratliff said. “They were a little quicker, a little faster than us. That made all the difference.”
Marion Local ran the ball well in the second half, with the pocket Hercules of a running back Jake Heitkamp, who ran it 19 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Heitkamp did that against a Bucks defensive line that feature two defensive tackles at 280 pounds or more.
“They can run it, they can pass it and their quarterback can run it,” Ratliff said. “That’s almost like being a triple threat. That’s tough to stop.”
A season after the OHSAA launched an ultimately failed foray into leveling the playing field in high school football after Delphos St. John’s destroyed Shadyside 77-7 in the Division VI title game, another Midwest Athletic Conference destroyed an opponent in the title game.
Public or private, the MAC simply dominates small-school football in the state of Ohio.
While Coldwater failed to win a title in Division V, Marion Local’s title means 11 state championships over the last nine seasons for MAC teams.
Marion Local scored first with an eight-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to begin the game and then took complete control a few plays later when a sack on Bucks quarterback Tyler Erwin resulted in a fumble that Flyer defensive back Alaric Keller scooped up and took 38 yards into the end zone for the very early 14-0 lead.
Marion Local went to the half up 34-0.
The Flyers scored almost every way imaginable, via fumble return, pass, run, flea flicker and interception return, leaving Buckeye Central humbled and seeking a moral victory in the second half.
Flyer players predicted another scene of celebration in Maria Stein on Saturday, one they dreamed of partaking in as youngsters watching the other four title teams enter the Mercer County village escorted by fire trucks.
As for Tim Goodwin, he said he doesn’t coach to win state titles.
“Tomorrow, my kids will be yelling at me. I’m going to be yelling at the dog. (State titles) aren’t why I do this,” Goodwin said. “I do it because I love football and I love the week to week preparation and working with the kids.You have to have your priorities in the right spots.”
It’s about enjoying the process for Goodwin and his Flyers. More often than not over the past 12 years, that’s been a championship plan.