Some years ago, a popular navy-blue T-shirt asked in white letters one simple question, “Got eleven?” It was one worn by Notre Dame football fans as a takeoff on the “Got milk?” ad campaign and was a cryptic question only to those unaware of the school’s 11 national football championships.
I thought about those T-shirts last Saturday when I watched Spectrum 1’s coverage of the Marion Local Flyers’ Division VII state championship game with the Lucas Cubs. A win by the blue and gold of southern Mercer County would be its 11th state crown since Tim Goodwin arrived in 1999 to assume command of the program, which would tie Cleveland St. Ignatius for the most state crowns since the football playoff system’s first year in 1972.
Of course, I root for all our local high school teams when it comes to their quests for state titles, but with Marion Local I always root a little harder because I first met Tim when he was an Allen East sixth-grader carrying out his duties as ball boy for his father. I was a young assistant coach on Tim’s father’s staff.
Since Bill Goodwin’s retirement in 2001 after 34 years as the Mustang coach, 219 wins and eight Northwest Conference Championships, which earned him induction into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, he’s extended his coaching resume by joining Tim on his sideline as an assistant coach, one who comes with a trove of more than a half century of coaching knowledge.
Says Tim, “With all that experience at Allen East in a community similar to what we have here in southern Mercer County, Dad understands small-town football and small-town kids, so he’s an invaluable resource.”
The Flyers prevailed again Saturday, 28-6 over Lucas, thus avenging a 2018 state-final loss to Kirtland. The frequency with which Marion Local achieves postseason success is almost mind-numbing. Journalist and Marion Local graduate Kyle Shaner offered the following tweet after Saturday’s win.
“Marion Local football’s last 20 years: 11 state championships and three runners-up; 19 appearances in the playoffs and 16 appearances in the final four.”
While so many of the state’s high school coaches begin their August two-a-days with a goal to win their league or, perhaps, to qualify for the playoffs, the bar is set so very much higher in both the Midwest Athletic Conference, of which Marion Local is a member school, and also in the Flyers’ community of Maria Stein, amidst the farmlands and frequent pop-up church steeples in what is known to many as God’s Country. Following wins by MAC member Anna Rockets and Goodwin’s squad last weekend, that makes 35 state football crowns for the MAC, far and away the most of any league in Ohio.
Tim shared some thoughts with me when I caught up to him Sunday. As for his concerns coming into this season that ended with another big trophy, it was replacing key members from last year’s squad.
“We lost 18 starters out of the 22,” he said. “Our concern was especially evident on the offensive side of the ball. And, we did struggle at times meshing before we found our rhythm as the season progressed.”
As far as his favorite of the 11 crowns captured, despite the fact that a lot of coaches would shy away from that question entirely, Tim didn’t.
“Of course, all of them are special, especially to the players and coaches who worked so hard to earn each one,” he said, but, personally, 2016 had to be my favorite because that was my son Joel’s senior year. I knew those seniors so well because they grew up with Joel.”
And, no one could blame Tim for identifying 2016 as his favorite when he not only got to experience the thrill of coaching his son, just as his father did back at Allen East, but also since it was a three-generational memory with Joel’s granddad on staff.
When it comes to offseason dedication to a winning program, Tim points to year-round weight training and football skills work in May and June. As far as what Tim feels has been so vital to sustained success, he points to the support he and his assistant coaches, Dan Koenig, Kevin Otte, Greg Bruns, Jacob Sherrick, Brian Wolters and his dad, receive.
“We can coach the kids hard and forcefully impose high expectations and feel confident we have the community’s support when we hold our young people to those lofty expectations,” he said.
While nationally, the last decade has seen a decline in the number of high school players, nearly a 100,000 less according to National Federation of State High School Associations, the sport thrives in southern Mercer County, thanks, in large part, to the proof that always seems to be in the autumnal pudding that is tasted in early December.
So, when it comes to high school football in these parts, when it comes to the simple question, “Got eleven?” Tim Goodwin and a whole community of fans certainly have an answer for you.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.