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 — Mentality led to turnaround

[This is my column in the Sept. 24 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Some time ago, Fort Recovery High School football coach Brent Niekamp knew the Indians were about to make a big turn.

It was 2011, to be exact. The Tribe had gone 4-6 that season — the third consecutive year with a losing record after going 5-5 in 2007.

“There was something about those guys,” said Niekamp, who has been leading Fort Recovery since 2005. “We played with a lot of toughness. We didn’t get intimidated by anybody.

“You could tell there was a different way that we played.”

Although the Indians had lost 21 games in three years, the margin of defeat was getting smaller each year. They were fighting back. They were playing well.

It just didn’t turn into many victories.
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Column: Line Drives — Apology nice, but not needed

[This is my column in the Aug. 27 issue of The Commercial Review.]

In sports, apologies aren’t necessary.

Coaches don’t need to apologize for being particularly hard on a player.

They want the best out of their players, and they will try to push them to become better athletes.

Players, if mistakes are made, don’t need to say they are sorry for doing something wrong.

After all, they’re just kids anyway. Kids aren’t perfect.

The blunder will be used as a learning experience, something the athlete can be sure to never do again.

Last week, I was wrong.
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Column: Line Drives — Losing streak could end Friday

[This is my column in the Aug. 20 issue of The Commercial Review.]

The streak may come to an end Friday night.

It’s been more than two decades since the Jay County High School football team beat Delta on the gridiron.

(Yes, the Patriots were credited with a win in 2011, but only after Delta was found to have used an ineligible player. The Eagles won that game, 55-0).

The last victory in the series for Jay County dates back to 1993, a 27-21 win. But, it ended up a loss because of a forfeit for the same reason.

The previous season the scoreboard read 36-19 at the end of the game in favor of Jay County.

Twenty-four years.

Twenty-four consecutive losses.

Friday, that number may not reach 25.
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Column: Line Drives — Changes coming for Jay sports

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

Change is on the horizon.

On Monday, the IHSAA will announce its new sectional alignments for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

While most may have hoped Jay County would drop to Class 3A in terms of boys and girls basketball, when the governing body announced enrollment numbers March 31 that was not the case.

Carmel, the largest school in the state, has an enrollment of 4,830. Jay County has 1,108 students.

Jay County is the third smallest school in 4A for boys and girls basketball. Only South Bend Washington (1,001) and Guerin Catholic (738) are smaller. Washington opted for a higher enrollment classification while Guerin Catholic, which won the Class 3A state championship in March, was bumped up to 4A because of the tournament success factor.

But change is still coming, as the Patriot baseball and softball teams dropped to 3A and will now be the biggest school in the class.

I’ve never been good at predicting the future. I’m in the wrong career if I was skillful at doing so.

I will try my best, however, to project what I think will be new sectional alignments for the Jay County baseball, softball, football and volleyball teams. I do not see the boys and girls hoops teams as well as both soccer squads changing.

The football and volleyball teams will have slight changes to their sectional opponents. The baseball and softball teams will have an entirely new lineup as they return to 3A for the first time since 2007. That is also the same year the JCHS baseball team won its last sectional championship.

So, here goes.
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