Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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As his record ascends and anticipation builds for the annual rival game with Piqua, Troy’s Matt Burgbacher would do well to consider a point handed down from the ol’ ball coach up the road. If you’re coaching at either school…don’t make permanent plans until you beat Piqua (or Troy).

There is a story that I’ll share that reminds me constantly of the current era of good feeling surrounding second-year Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher and the meteoric rise of the Trojan football program under his short tenure as coach.

From 2-8 last season, the Trojans have sprinted out to their current record of 7-1, they’re tied with Piqua for first place in the GWOC American North division, and own the #2 spot in Div. II , Region 8, behind unbeaten Turpin out of Cincinnati.

All that remains on the Trojans’ schedule is a road game at Greenville next week in which they’ll be the prohibitive favorites…and then the annual rivalry game with Piqua, which has taken some severe swings of momentum in recent years. Prior to Steve Nolan retiring the Trojans beat Piqua five straight years. Since Nolan’s retirement the Indians have returned that favor in 2012, ’13, ’14, and ’15.

Die-hards reading might take umbrage to the choice of words and ask…that’s “ALL” that remains?  Show some respect for the Piqua rivalry, those from the land of Deckers and Orr Felt might say.

Which is exactly what former Piqua coach Chuck Asher shared with me once during the old Friday night “Fifth Quarter Show” that used to air on WPTW following broadcasts of area football.

Asher, who had success at Piqua for several years before moving on to Bellefontaine, and later Lehman, loved to tell the story of how he came to take the Piqua job in the early 60s…especially with the one cautious caveat that came during his interview from then Piqua Schools superintendent, Wilbur Horner.

“Mr Horner was all business, a man’s man,” remembers Asher, who had the great fortune of coaching at Piqua during the time of future Big Ten and NFL players Craig Clemons (University of Iowa and the Chicago Bears) and Dave Gallagher (Univ. Of Michigan, NY Giants, Bears, and Detroit).

“He was a stickler for professionalism from everyone in the Piqua system, right down to the way you dressed for the classroom, to the manner in which you related to people in the community. Wilbur Horner was a coat and tie guy, as straight-laced as they come, and conservative to his core. He was the very definition of ‘old school’.

“I remember the interview process very well. We actually talked a lot about what I would teach in the classroom…more than we did about football. He covered everything.  He asked about my wife Jo, our kids, and our plans for coming to Piqua, right down to where we intended to live.

“I mentioned that Jo and I had already been looking for a house, and at the time they were building new homes up on top of High Street hill. I shared that we were considering one of the new homes on Ron Aire Drive.

“Mr Horner took this all in, sitting behind his desk with his hands folded in his lap. When I was finished he said, ‘Chuck, that all sounds great. But before you buy or build a house in Piqua…I think you better beat Troy first.’ His response really took me by surprise, but right then and there I realized just how important that one football game was to people in Piqua.”

Or course Asher bought the house on Ron Aire, and lived there for the next fifty or so years. And he won his share against Troy, thanks to the admonitions of Wilbur Horner in his job interview. I highly doubt that Troy superintendent Eric Herman gave that same advice to Burgbacher prior to hiring him at Troy because this is a different age, right down to being a man’s man. And Burgbacher’s already bought a house in Troy.

Sonny_thumb0216But frankly, no one has to tell Burgbacher that the Trojans have lost four straight to Piqua. He knows. And to his credit all he has to do for reminders sake is turn to his own Chuck Asher, assistant coach and father, Charlie. They don’t come any closer to being a Chuck Asher than Charlie Burgbacher, who in thirty five years has seen and heard every object lesson there is from superintendents and school administration. I imagine they’ve already had the Wilbur Horner talk.

I’m sure next week Charlie will look at Matt and say, “It’s time you (we) beat Piqua.”

Before he buys a bigger house!

DaveArbogast-FYI

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