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Kevin Hieronymus

Beers finds you can always come home again to Ohio

Ike Beers only lived in Ohio, Ill. for three years, but yet he considers it home.

“When I’m asked, ‘Where you from. I say, I graduated from Ohio … Ohio, Illinois,’” he said. “A lot of good folks in this town. A lot of great memories in these walls.”

Beers, who now is a patrol officer for the Lakewood, Col. Police Department, returned to Ohio High School last week to take part in the rededication of his retired jersey alongside fellow Bulldog greats Brad Bickett, Lance Harris, Brian Piper and Steve and Todd Etheridge.

It was like he had never left.

“I have real warm feelings when I walked into this school,” Beers said, looking around inside the grade school gym and its unique classroom balcony setting. “We had our variety shows on that stage.”

He soon received the keys to the school from superintendent Sharon Sweger so he could take his own personal walk back into yesteryear.

“In all honesty, I looked at the gym, and I remember the six-minutes miles we ran before we started every practice. And the minute I saw coach Johnson, I said, ‘Don’t make us run laps for the mile,’” he said with a laugh.

“My personal memory is the time I got my first dunk in the game. That was very cool. I think probably my fondest memory still is when we got back from State, and they had that gym just filled of people who had caravanned with us and supported us. I still remember that gym just being full and it really warmed my heart. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Beers was just a sophomore in high school when he moved to Ohio from Colorado following the death of his mother. He didn’t know anyone other than the Duffields, his aunt and uncle.

“He really came in a sad situation, but really right in with everyone at Ohio,” Johnson said.

Beers, who was a stocky post for the Bulldogs, found Ohio to be a great place to develop his basketball game with boys who shared his passion for the game.

“To be able to come into school and really be pretty raw in basketball and get an opportunity toward the end of the season and suit up for the varsity, I really counted it as a privilege,” said Beers, whose father, Wayne, lives in Mount Morris. “They were guys who grew up in this school and played together since they were 5, 6, 7 years old. I don’t think I realized the significance until I left high school and got older and realized how special it was. It was just incredible.

“To learn under Lance and Brad and Dave Doran, Tom Farraher, Tim Farraher and all those guys, it was a real special time. There was that time period where all those guys went through, Brian included because he was coming up behind Todd. We had really good teams. It was fun to be a Bulldog. We were successful, winning a lot of games, we were competitive. It was one of the things I cherished. It really helped mold me later on in life. Taught me discipline, relationship. Twenty-five years later it was like I saw them in class yesterday.”

Johnson said Beers was a hard-worker, always striving to get better.

“I remember after we lost to Teutopolis in the state championship game. He dressed, but didn’t play for the game. But he told me, ‘Coach I want to do everything I can to get us back down here my senior year,’ Johnson said.

“You can’t beat a kid like that. He really made a name for himself and I’m really proud of him.”

It is those qualities he gained from the game of basketball he is passing down to his four kids today, the 4 Rs as he calls them — son Rocky and daughters Raegan, Rowdy and Rylie. All four play basketball and he does some coaching. He said his wife, Kari, a former collegiate player, polices the chaos at home.

“I think they can learn a lot of values from basketball,” he said. “They’re enjoying it, that’s the biggest thing. They’re competitive, which is fun to watch. I think it will serve them well as long as they keep the priorities focused.”

The kids don’t know much about their dad’s playing days at Ohio other than a plaque they found recently.

“The most shocking thing to them is the uniforms we used to wear. They asked, ‘Did you really wear those short shorts?” he said.

And then he’ll tell them about the Ohio Bulldogs and how special those days were.

• It was great to see Ike and all the old Bulldogs. They sure were fun to watch play. When you think of the collection of talent Ohio had from that stretch from 1983 with Steve Etheridge to 1991 with Brian Piper, it is simple amazing. The Bulldogs played with the big dogs and usually beat them.

I’m wondering if it was more than a coincidence that the numbers 1,986 were displayed on a numerical bars in Sarah Hansen’s third grade classroom. It was 1986, of course, that Ohio Bulldog shined the most by shocking the state by taking second-place in the IHSA 1A State Tournament.

• Peanut Gallery: It was great to see Charles “Peanut” Tillman named as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Very deserving as we here learned of the friendship he struck with Cora Peters. He was deeply moved by receiving the award and with a great tribute, he said he was accepting the award in memory of five children who had passed, naming each by their first name, including Cora.

Here’s a link to his acceptance speech: http://www.nfl.com/videos/chicago-bears/0ap2000000321704/NFL-Honors-Charles-Tillman-wins-Walter-Payton-Man-of-the-Year.

In closing I want to note the passing of Jay Mercer, one of the top athletes to play sports at Princeton High School. He received a scholarship to play football for Northwestern University, but enlisted in the Marines and served in the Korean War. He later played at Illinois Wesleyan for Princeton native Don Larson.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.