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Former Newton football announcer receiving state honor

Published: Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 11:21 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 11:56 a.m. CDT
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(Jocelyn Sheets/Daily News)
Burt Strike, longtime voice of Newton football at H.A. Lynn Stadium, will be honored Friday at halftime of the Newton varsity game as the 2013 recipient of the IHSAA Morris Kelly Award.

“He had a unique delivery and when you heard him call a game at H.A. Lynn Stadium it was special. Burt Strike is a Newton football icon and is synonymous with Newton football,” said Ed Ergenbright, current Newton football head coach, and former NHS player.

Burt Strike called Newton home football games for 46 years. He began in 1966 and retired as the NHS football public announcer at the conclusion of the 2011 season.

“I don’t remember how I started. I was a teacher in Newton, coached middle school football, and I guess I just fell into it,” Strike said, sitting in the bleachers in front of the Frank Gilson Pressbox at Lynn Stadium.

Friday at halftime of the Newton-Knoxville varsity football game, Strike will be honored as the 2013 recipient of the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Morris Kelly Award. The award is presented annually for excellent in public address announcing.

The award was created in 2001 by IHSAA in honor of Morris D. Kelley for his 30 years of service to the IHSAA as its publications director and voice of the association’s awards at state competitions.

Ergenbright, who was coached by Strike in middle school football and in high school baseball, said he and many other NHS athletes have fond memories of Strike as teacher, coach and announcer.

Strike said to be a good public address announcer starts with “caring about the kids.”

“That’s the most important thing in my mind. Also, you try to be as accurate as possible. I never had a spotter so I’m sure I made a few mistakes along the way, but I attempted to be accurate,” Strike said.

Strike listed the head coaches for Newton football through his years. Russ Larson was the head coach in 1959, when Strike came to Newton to teach. Strike taught social studies at the middle school level, along with coaching middle school football and being an assistant coach for the NHS baseball team.

Paul Turner was the head coach in 1966, when Strike began his career at the microphone for NHS football. That year the Cardinals went 7-1 and were CIC champions. In 1970, Ken Beverlin was the head coach followed by Bob Potter.

Strike said Frank Gilson became the Cardinal head coach in 1974 and the team went 3-6 in its final year in the Big Nine Conference. Gilson led the Cardinals to a 9-3 mark in 1977 and to the state championship game. Newton lost to Davenport West 21-14 to finish second in the state.

“We had a lot of playoff games from that point on. We went to the playoffs 18 straight years at one time. Frank Gilson and John Jenkins really had success here. We won the 4A state championship in 1980, going 12-0,” Strike said.

Gilson died of a heart attack in September 1985 during the football season. Jenkins took over the program and in 1988 the Cardinals were back in the 4A state championship game, this time losing to Bettendorf. The Cardinals won back-to-back CIC championships in 1988 and 1989 and won the new CIML championship in 1990 and lost to Linn-Mar in the state championship game.

“There’s a lot of players and games to remember. The one that stands out most because it was so cold that game was a loss in the second round of the playoffs. We call it the ‘Ice Bowl,’” Strike said.

“It was the coldest game I’ve been at with snow and ice, making the natural grass and ground so hard here at the stadium. There was a lot of fumbles, penalties, slipping and sliding.”

Jenkins stepped down as head coach in 2003 and Ergenbright became the head coach.

Strike, who received the Iowa Football Coaches Association Distinguished Service Award in 2001, said he would call the sophomore game, and now freshman game, before each varsity game through the years. He said he would get the rosters, the starters for each team, talk to opposing teams’ spotters “or whoever they had in the pressbox and even talk to coaches before games.”

He remembers a lot of players — both for Newton and opposing teams — competing on the Newton field. Newton had some great linemen “but the backs get the recognition,” Strike said with a smile.

In 2011, it was time to retire, Strike said. He had retired from teaching in 1999, he didn’t know the students as well, and it wasn’t the same. Strike’s son Jeff was a member of the NHS 1977 squad, which finished second in the state.

Strike and his wife, Marlis, have reserved seats at H.A.Lynn Stadium. They go to all the home games.

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