Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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The GWOC’s leading rusher is three hundred yards ahead of his nearest competitor at the halfway point, and is doing it in virtual anonymity. He doesn’t seem to mind.

Sidney – Isaiah Bowser would have preferred a better outcome than the 33-13 lashing that Piqua (4-2) dealt the Yellow Jackets on their homecoming night Thursday at Memorial Stadium in Sidney.

Mind you, he did his part. The Yellow Jackets’ junior running back already led the GWOC Conference in rushing yards at the halfway point of the season with 1,064 yards.

Three times he’s eclipsed the 250 yard mark in rushing in a single game (281, 262, and 276 yards). And for good measure, he’s posted 17 touchdowns. All this now…in just five games!

And, he added 109 yards and another touchdown Thursday against a stout Piqua defense that was well-rehearsed to stop him.

But no individual stat could soothe his frustration Thursday over losing to an ancient rival that’s been around since the days of the old Miami Valley League – the days when a 30-game win streak by Sidney football became namesake for the playing field at the new Memorial Stadium. Football is a team game, of course, and the frustration of not enough from his team on a night so important was clearly evident in Bowser’s post-game demeanor.

At 6’1” and 195 pounds he’s positively chiseled. Strong, powerful for his size, he runs low to the ground and he’s hard to knock of his feet once he gets a head of steam.

“He was the focus of our preparation all week,” said Piqua coach Bill Nees after Thursday’s game. “He’s tough, very impressive. It’s amazing what he can do in the open field.  We just tried to bottle him up before he could get started.”

mark_knupp_284x150And relentless. Nees and the Indians did bottle him up for the first half, allowing Bowser just 45 yards.

But he eventually got his yards as quarterback Dillion King (the ‘Jackets’ third quarterback of the year) kept calling his number. Piqua reacted by swarming to the football.  A determined Bowser just kept moving the pile…3 yards here, 5 yards there. He finished with 109 on 30 carries, and for emphasis he returned a kickoff 60 yards.

“We finally figured it out. We quit kicking it to him after four times,” confessed Nees in self-deprocating fashion.

Still, when he shared his thoughts on the game, Isaiah Bowser was immersed in what coulda’ been.

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“He’s really a neat kid,”  says coach Adam Doenges of Bowser.  “He’s hard-nosed and hard-working.  And on top of that he’s a 4.0 student who takes advanced placement courses.”

“We worked all week for it. We came out and we couldn’t land the first punch,” said the Sidney junior. “They hit us first, we couldn’t answer in the second quarter, and when we scored in the second half our defense couldn’t get a stop. We just didn’t get it done.”

One could point to the cliche’ of playing with one hand tied behind his back, given that key Sidney talents, both quarterbacks, are out for the year. Starter Andre Gordon has a broken wrist; and backup Jack Feazel broke his ankle last week. Dillion King played Thursday in emergency duty.

One can point to the irrefutable fact that Sidney is a young program, playing a lot of inexperienced sophomores and juniors – those seeing varsity action for the first time.

And you cannot ignore the obvious…that the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line is a work in progress and struggled mightily Thursday against Piqua’s bigger, more experienced front.

Still, Bowser gave no quarter, nor asked for any. He made no excuses. You have to be tough to play football, and he can both walk and talk the part.  Pieces missing, inexperience, issues of size and seasoning…you still have to play.

“We just have to keep our heads on straight and look past the injuries. We can’t sulk about that for the rest of the season. They (Piqua) have injuries, too. We have to come back now and win some games. We’re 3-3 and have four games remaining. We win those games and we can have a good season. We can’t just lay down and let everyone go past us.”

If his attitude, if his words sound beyond his years, it’s no surprise to Sidney coach Adam Doenges. He’s seen the process mature since the fifth grade.

“Isaiah’s a really neat kid,” says Doenges. “He comes from a great, blue-collar family that works and supports each other. He’s spent a lot of time with his grandfather doing landscape work, and his grandfather is a rock. You could tell early on when he wrestled in elementary school, in pee-wee football, and when he moved to basketball, he was a natural athlete.

“He’s a hard-nosed, hard-working kid. He’s a leader and he’s got another year to play.  And on top of that he’s a 4.0 student who takes advanced placement courses. He’s just as competitive in the classroom because he’s looking for every advantage he can find to get to college. I have to remind him all the time…he’s gonna’ get college paid for through football. But he keeps working just the same. He has one goal in mind every day…to make himself better and to make our team better.”

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He’s already been offered in football, by UC (Cincinnati), but he’s unfazed by recruiting attention at this stage of his high school career.  He appears perfectly happy to do what he’s doing in virtual anonymity.

“I do like the attention,” he says quietly. “But it’s not gonna’ change anything for me. I’m still going to work everyday. I look forward someday to going D-I and making a name for myself, but right now I’m still focused on winning high school football games.”

He was getting attention, plenty of it Thursday, as I peppered him with one question after another pertaining to his team, school, grades, and his future.

“You get tired of people like me asking you questions?” I mused.

“It’s OK,” he responded, smiling as curious teammates listened in. “I don’t mind talking to you guys.”

“And how long will the disappointment of this game last for you?,” I piled on.

“Tonight was exciting. It was a big game. It was fun to play in front of big crowd. People came out to support us and that was nice. I’ll probably go to Troy tomorrow, though. Our next two opponents (Troy and Tipp) are playing. We’re going to keep working just like we have been. We’re going to get the job done.”

Not one mention of yards, touchdowns, or leading the GWOC in both. Just work…blue collar.

Isaiah Bowser!

Bowser sneaks behind the block of teammate Connor Beer to score his 18th touchdown of the season in Thursday's loss to Piqua.

Bowser sneaks behind the block of teammate Connor Beer to score his 18th touchdown of the season in Thursday’s loss to Piqua.

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