Week nine of the regular season, Delphos St. John’s edged Marion-Local
21-14 to claim a share of the MAC title. On a bigger stage Saturday
evening in the D-VI state semi-finals, the Flyers returned the disfavor
with a 21-14 victory in an emotionally-charged game against the
defending state champs at Harmon Field.
Video by Alex Sator
MARION LOCAL SCORES LATE, EARNS VICTORY IN REMATCH OF MAC GOLIATHS
By Tim Langevin
Week nine of the regular season, Delphos St. John’s edged Marion-Local 21-14 to claim a share of the MAC title. On a bigger stage Saturday evening in the D-VI state semi-finals, the Flyers returned the disfavor with a 21-14 victory in an emotionally-charged game against the defending state champs at Harmon Field.
“It ended well,” said Marion coach Tim Goodwin with a slight grin. “Delphos is a great team. Both teams are very evenly matched and resemble one another. But we wanted to go to the big dance so bad.”
And it was a pair of youngsters who ignored the memo that the Blue Jays vaunted secondary is tough to crack. Sophomore QB Adam Bertke engineered a final drive with the poise and perfection of a fifth-year senior. He stood tall in the pocket and delivered four straight completions for 79 yards, including the game-winning 19-yard strike to a streaking Lee Pierron across the middle with 32.6 ticks left.
Pierron made three clutch catches for 59 yards and seldom-used receiver Trevor Homan hauled down a 20-yard catch to keep the improbable drive alive.
The junior WR said, “That play took time to develop. The line protected. Adam had to be patient. I had to run my route. It was my time to make the play. We all came to play when it counted…I’m so excited. This is my first time going to state.”
Bertke had a simpler take, “I threw it and he caught it. I didn’t say anything in the huddle. I knew what we had to do. The guys knew what we had to do. The coaches knew what to do. We knew we had to pass the ball with 1:30 left, but we work on our two-minute drill every week.”
“Bertke didn’t have time to think,” Goodwin said. “Delphos has such a great pass defense. They force you to run and fly to the ball when you pass against their zone coverage.”
When these two teams collide, it’s always a smash-mouth, ugly affair. This night was no different. On the second play of the game after Tyler Jettinghoff ripped a six-yard gain, QB Mark Boggs hit Ryan Densel on a bubble screen, but a vicious hit caused the fumble and Flyer LB Justin Rutschilling recovered it on the Delphos 34-yard-line.
Eight grinding plays later, RB Jake Heitkamp punched it across the endzone from one yard out to give the Flyers the early 7-0 lead. Heitkamp, playing with a tweaked ankle, carried the ball six times for 22 yards.
The score remained the same until 10:15 left in the half when Heitkamp scored again from six yards to give the Flyers a 13-0 lead after the blocked extra point by Ben Warnecke. Marion marched 78 yards in nine plays and looked in command. Heitkamp was the workhorse with 50 yards on seven carries. And Bertke connected with Kellen Goettemoeller on a 25-yard reception.
But looks can be deceiving. Delphos capitalized on a shanked punt into the wind and took over from Marion’s 30-yard-line. Four plays later, FB Jordan Bergfeld plowed into the endzone on a two-yard dive play to make it 13-7 with 39 seconds left in the half. Game On.
It was just a game, though. The football loss by Delphos St. John’s pales in comparison to the tragic death Wednesday night of center Kent Staup. St. John’s entered the stadium with Brock Bonifas leading the charge, holding high Number 54’s helmet for all to see.
Goodwin said, “Delphos was playing under tough circumstances. We wish them the best under these trying times.”
Bertke added, “We have all the respect for Delphos, especially what they’ve gone through.”
In typical fashion, the Jays took the lead for the first time 14-13 with 7:03 left in the contest. They grinded 64 yards in eight plays and Jettinghoff paved the way with 37 yards, including a 28-yard scamper on the edge. Alex Clark, sharing quarterback duties with Mark Boggs, tossed the perfect pass on a corner route to Tanner Calvelage deep in the endzone.
The Flyer faithful must have been thinking, “Here we go again.” Delphos has won the last four meetings.
It was another three and out for Marion and Delphos took over from their 25-yard-line, leading 14-13 with 4:57 left in the game. All that stood between them and another state final appearance was three first downs.
Jettinghoff carried the ball nine straight plays for a grueling 39 yards, milking precious minutes off the clock. On a third down and eight, the sophomore TB dashed 10 yards and an extra 15 yards were added after a face-mask penalty. The next play, Jettinghoff gained 11 more yards to the Marion 23-yard-line for another first down with 1:52 left.
The Flyer faithful were thinking, “Not again!” The last time Marion beat Delphos was week six in 2008.
On third down and seven with 1:42 left, Bergfeld fumbled and Alaric Keller recovered it. End of threat. The rest is history.
“The defense gave us a chance,” Goodwin stated. “They had our number in the fourth quarter. They were playing great defense. We kind of self-destructed, but then that big play across the middle…”
No doubt, both programs are mirror images – playing style, coaching, and greatness – not to mention hard working, middle-class yoemen communities.
Since Delphos coach Todd Schulte and Goodwin burst onto the scene 13 years ago, the MAC has developed into a dominant football institution. Try these accomplishments on for size. Delphos St. John’s has won four state titles, finished runner-up in 2009, and advanced to the state semi-finals four times in 11 playoff appearances.
Maria Stein Marion-Local has captured four state titles, finished runner-up in 2003, and advanced to the state semi-finals four times in 12 playoff appearances.
Goodwin has compiled a 138-38 mark in 13 years. Schulte owns a 136-36 career record in 13 seasons, including an 11-5 advantage against Goodwin.
Bertke finished the night completing 9-of-15 passes for 141 yards and one TD and one interception. It hasn’t always been as easy as Bertke made it look on that final drive. The lanky sophomore has experienced some growing pains. The opening game of the season, he threw three costly picks in the second half against Lima Shawnee in a 13-7 OT loss. Coach Goodwin yanked him from the game.
On the season, Bertke has thrown for over 1,500 yards, completed 55% of his passes with 17 TDs and 8 INTs.
Heitkamp, the MAC offensive POY, rushed for 98 yards on 27 attempts and the two scores. He has over 1,700 rushing yards on the season. Senior TE Goettemoeller caught three passes for 46 yards.
The Flyers recorded 11 first-downs and gained 243 total yards, 102 rushing and 141 passing.
Jettinghoff ran for 124 yards on 24 attempts for a solid 5.1 yard average. The Jays recorded 10 first-downs and gained 176 total yards, 152 rushing and 24 passing. Delphos bows out with a 10-4 record.
Marion-Local is headed to Canton and will be gunning for a fifth state championship trophy. The Blue and Gold (12-2) face New Washington Buckeye Central (12-2) Saturday at 11:00 AM at Fawcett Stadium.
And for the eighth time in nine years, two teams from the mighty MAC will be represented in the state championship games. Coldwater defeated Hicksville for a second time this season 41-21 on Friday to advance to the D-V Grand Finale.