Press Pros Magazine
by Sonny Fulks | Home Features
At Marion Local there’s never, EVER, acceptance for ALMOST having the right answer. 2 plus 2 must equal 4! (Press Pros Feature Photos)
Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.
What Marion Local and those other MAC schools 44 OHSAA titles in football now represent is something akin to the saying, “there must be something in the water”. The question is…why don’t more people drink?
Throughout the fall sports season I’ve written a Monday column detailing something I noticed from the week before. But never have I sat down to write about a more poignant view than that which I brought home from the weekend’s 50th anniversary of the OHSAA football finals.
As shared here in our Saturday and Sunday coverage, Marion Local and Versailles High School won the Division VII and Division V titles, respectively, adding more championships to the already burgeoning total of Midwest Athletic Conference titles won since the league’s inception back in 1972. Marion’s win Saturday morning over Newark Catholic made 38, and Versailles beating six-time champion Kirtland Saturday nine pushed the number to 39.
Overall, counting the five titles that Versailles won as a member of the Southwest Rivers Conference prior to joining the MAC, the figure now sits at 44!
But the one that garners the most attention is Marion Local, who wrested the all-time titles won record away from Cleveland St. Ignatius with their twelfth on Saturday, a 42-7 spanking of a good team from Newark Catholic that came out prepared with a game plan to stop the Flyers, only to find out within the first twelve minutes that it wasn’t nearly as prepared as Marion.
Similarly, Kirtland was favored to win its fourth consecutive championship over Versailles, making its first appearance since last winning in 2003 under then coach Al Hetrick. But alas, they found that ‘Tigerball’, a phrase that has legendary significance like the famous ‘Rebel Yell’ of the Civil War, was something as big, or bigger, then the Xs and Os of football itself.
But most of the attention on Saturday – on the weekend – centered around Marion. For years people in west-central Ohio have marveled at the consistency of the Flyers’ perennial success and one title challenge after another, something that’s eluded other schools, other coaches, for generations.
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For instance, there is none better than Steve Nolan, who amassed 225 wins at Troy High School, or Charlie Burgbacher, who did it at Covington and Tipp City. But those two have never worn that ultimate champion’s ring. Tim Goodwin now has so many of them he needs to mutate to wear them all at once.
People have asked the question for years. How do they do it?
Is it all about football at Marion? The answer is no. A small school with about 250 kids in its top four grades, it’s also one of the area’s highest achieving in classroom academics, as well.
They ask why Marion ALWAYS has a football roster numbering 70 to 80, when other Division VI and VII schools struggle to attract enough with which to practice. The answer is a culture of expectation. Football is king, yes, but EVERYONE does something outside the classroom at Marion, and owing to the culture of the community you’re expected to do it well, and successfully.
Former athletic director Stan Wilker said this about his hiring of Goodwin in 1999: “He hadn’t been a head coach before, but I just had a hunch about him.”
They ask if one man, in this case coach Tim Goodwin, can make that much a difference? And the answer is yes, apparently. He touched on the success of Marion football in Saturday’s press conference when asked, “How can you do this year after year.”
Goodwin’s answer (paraphrasing): “The community doesn’t undercut what we’re trying to do.” Translation: They don’t have problems with parents.
And why would you interfere with a CEO that efficient and above board? A young Tim Goodwin was hired by then athletic director Stan Wilker back in 1999, because Wilker would later claim, “I just had a hunch about him.”
Wilker explained that Goodwin was not just a rah-rah personality who interviewed better than the rest, but a bright, calculating young man who taught math and seemed to have a vision about the work necessary to be successful with football. In fact, he was kind of quiet, and still is. Math teachers, by the way, are obsessive about details, about having or getting the right answer…and there’s never, EVER, acceptance for ALMOST having the right answer. 2 plus 2 must equal 4!
Frankly, Marion’s success, good as it’s been, has spawned some jealousy among other area conferences and schools. More than one has written to this site to question why Goodwin and the Flyers get a disproportionate amount (their view) of coverage and promotion. “You might as well call it Press Pros ‘MAC’azine,” some write.
But every one of them would trade places, if they could. What stands between them and doing that…is the cold hard fact of work, commitment, and a refusal to accept the argument from the community questioning the pursuit of winning – those that believe that 2 plus 2 doesn’t ALWAYS have to mean 4. There should be some gray area, too.
But Marion Local and Versailles (whose title total now stands at seven) might beg to differ. Ironically, Coldwater, going for its eighth title on Saturday, came up short this time against a talented, and much bigger team from Carey.
In the post-game conference Cavalier coach Chip Otten simply paid tribute to the Blue Devils, and said, “I guess you can’t win them all.”
It was not a concession, as those who knew him understood. No, the wheels were already turning for a return home and back to the drawing board. It’s unlikely that Otten will find a 265-pound running back like Carey’s Jordan Vallejo between now and August, but the expectation is, “We’ve got to do better. We’ve GOT TO find a way.”
Others would be content to say there’s always next year, and leave it at that. We did the best we could.
But at Marion, Coldwater, and Versailles, next year doesn’t matter if you don’t make the most of having another year.
Nike’s Phil Knight, another pretty successful CEO would say…just do it.
You see, the vision is….2 plus 2 must equal 4!
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