Column: Line Drives — Four years hold special memories

[This is my column in the June 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Four years.

Saturday marks four years as sports editor of The Commercial Review.

I didn’t expect to be here this long.

No, that’s not to say I don’t want to still be here — I do — nor am I on my way out the door.

If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to stay for a while longer.

I just never thought I’d hit four years.

I thought I’d put in a year or two and move on. It’s the epitome of small-town, community journalism — get a foot in the door, gain experience, go elsewhere.

But I don’t want to.

And I’m glad I haven’t.

It’d be hard for me to imagine not being around to see the culmination of the high school athletic careers of four local athletes.

Four years ago I came to Portland not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Four years later, the class of 2017 is the first group of student-athletes I’ve gotten to cover all the way through high school.

There are four in particular whose careers have stuck out the most.

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Column: Line Drives — Question from a fan was a surprise

[This is my column in the Nov. 19 issue of The Commercial Review.]

It was a question that caught me off guard.

Saturday in Monroeville, the Jay County High School girls basketball team had just finished beating the host Heritage Patriots.

It was the second win in as many games — also the second game I covered this winter sports season — and the eighth consecutive regular season Allen County Athletic Conference victory for Jay County.

Usually I’m the one asking the questions following a game. Sometimes, I even catch the athletes off guard with one of my inquiries.

The table was turned Saturday.

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Column: Line Drives — Indians deserved playoff game

[This is my column in the Nov. 12 issue of The Commercial Review.]

It was more than two decades in the making.

The Fort Recovery High School football team hosted its first playoff game in program history on Friday.

There is a certain buzz that surrounds football games on Friday nights, and what happened in Fort Recovery last week was special.

Even before arriving at Barrenbrugge Athletic Park, the pomp and circumstance was in full force.

Pop-up canopies were peppered throughout town, grills fired up and the smell of tailgate food permeated the air.

It was hard not to get caught up in the moment.

Nearly an hour before the game started, the home side of the stands was just about half full.

It was easy to see the implications of the game.

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Column: Line Drives — Talking after defeat is difficult

[This is my column in the Oct. 15 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“This is the hard one.”

That’s what I said to Jay County High School girls soccer coach Giles Laux moments after his Patriot squad lost to Yorktown in the sectional championship Saturday afternoon.

He had no words.

Hours later, again at Yorktown Sports Park, I stood between seniors Nathan Heitkamp and Colton Compton to speak with them about their heartbreaking defeat in penalty kicks to the Tigers in their sectional final.

“What’s going through your head right now?” I asked.

They had no words.

All three of them had to fight back emotion. Laux, whose team had won back-to-back sectional championships — Abby Champ coached it to the 2013 title — was able to hide behind his sunglasses. The others were not.

They just looked away.

Laux and I had to continue the interview a few minutes later.

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Column: Line Drives — Tribe’s leader calm, relaxed

[This is my column in the June 3 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Ask anyone on the Fort Recovery High School baseball team and they will give you the same answer.

“Laid back.”

“Relaxed.”

Take one look at the guy, and it is easy to see what they mean.

Watch him in action, manning the coaching box down the third base line or nearly walking on the field to give his defense instructions, his knowledge for the game shows.

What he’s done in five years leading the Indians has earned him the respect of his peers.

“I can’t say enough about Jerry Kaup,” said St. Henry coach John Dorner following his team’s 2-0 victory May 8 against the Indians. “What he’s done with this program here, to be (then) No. 1 in the state … He has done a tremendous job with this program and I wish him luck.

“I think (Fort Recovery) can go a long way in the tournament this year.”
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Column: Line Drives — Post play will be crucial Saturday

[This is my column in the Jan. 2 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Saturday has the makings to be a pretty exciting day.

Jay County and Fort Recovery will meet on the hardwood.

Twice.

The border battle basketball games kick off in the afternoon when the Patriot girls squad crosses the state line to take on the Indians. The junior varsity game is set for noon with the varsity game to follow.

In the evening, the boys teams will continue their renewed rivalry in Portland. The reserve game of that matchup is slated for 6 p.m.

There are a number of things to look at in each game, but it all comes down to who can play better on the post.

Let’s start with the girls.

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