By Gary R. Rasberry
MARIA STEIN -- It had to be strange as players, coaches, parents and fans of Marion Local and St. John's football gathered at Booster Field on Sunday morning and afternoon for a high school football game.
More often than not, most would be warm at home or at a favorite watering hole watching football, likely the Battle of Ohio between the Browns and Bengals.
But as the announcer said, the reason the game was played that day reflected the events of the last few days.
The deaths of Marion students Corey Albers and David Gerlach last week put the game in perspective.
This was to be homecoming weekend for the Flyers, and while Abby Schulte was crowned the queen by last year's winner Rachel Thobe, Albers and Gerlach were not far from minds as the whole court wore picture buttons of the two. There was no dance held on Saturday, the day of the funerals for both. On the fence on the home side, where signs shaped as jersies hung for the seniors and cheerleaders on the team, a new one was hung that said simply "Forever In Our..." with a heart drawn around pictures of Albers and Gerlach, including one of the two of them during a game when Gerlach once played for the Flyers.
Marion coach Tim Goodwin called it the toughest week of his life.
"Everything that seemed real important before doesn't seem important now," said Goodwin. "You have no idea what to expect. Obviously, what we had to go through was nothing compared to what the families had to go through."
Yet the Flyers did play, losing a close 13-7 game to the Blue Jays.
"We had a chance," said Goodwin. "Going into halftime, I don't think a lot of people would have said we had a chance, but we did.
"I really think with our kids, the way it looked like all week, football was something to get out and run around and not think about it for awhile. I think it helped during the week to go out and practice a little bit," added Goodwin.
One group from outside the Marion Community that helped out were the people of St. John's and Delphos. The administration at St. John's told Marion to take their time and have the game when they were ready.
"St. John's was super," said Goodwin. "They said 'Hey, don't worry about us. Whatever you guys need to do, we'll be there.'"
Blue Jay coach Todd Schulte could relate to Goodwin. Last season, freshman Troy Reindel was killed in an accident on the way to practice in the summer of 2003. The team wore a sticker with Reindel's number for the season and Jason Klaus, Reindel's cousin, carried a helmet, that would have been worn by Reindel, out for every game last season and kept it on the sidelines.
"We had a little bit of background and knew what was going on," Schulte said about what the team and families were going through. "Their kids played great and left it all on the field and our kids did too. It's a credit to them to play with a lot of emotion."
The rest of the Midwest Athletic Conference also helped gather around the Flyer faithful. The St. John's volleyball team came early on Thursday to meet with the Flyers and present them with flowers and cards, which brought all in the meeting to tears. Roaming the stands on Sunday, one could see school jackets from St. Henry, Minster and Versailles to watch the game.
"There was a lot of flowers and so forth at the funeral home from various MAC schools," said Goodwin. "We appreciate it. It's a tight-knit league."