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 dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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Behind a stellar floor game by sophomore Grant Zawadzki and plenty of support, on and off the court, Troy Christian proved with their win over Lehman…they’re for real.  Lest anyone doubt!

Troy – Lehman coach Isaiah Williams’ worst fears were realized.

Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki’s greatest hope was fulfilled.

And for good measure, the reality of football returning to Troy Christian next fall was made manifest Friday night when former Troy High School football coach Steve Nolan was introduced to the standing room crowd as the new football coach at Troy Christian High School, prior to the basketball Eagles (15-2) matchup with the 9-7 Lehman Cavaliers.

Prior to his introduction before the game Nolan smiled and addressed what reality means to a football program that was no program at all this past fall.

“There’s a lot of work to do,”  he said flatly.  But for good measure, he did hang around to do some scouting.  And he had to have liked what he saw.

From the opening tip the Troy Christian came out smoking, aggressive, and passionate in their intent to compete with Lehman, a team coming off its biggest win in a decade last Tuesday, a 48-45 win over Versailles.

The Cavaliers, known for their own aggressive, physical style, literally fell prey to a young, rapidly maturing group in its fourth year under Zawadzki.  The Eagles came out with talons bared, resembling anything but a team willing to turn the other cheek. What they did turn was the Cavaliers inside out, coming away at the end with an impressive 60-40 win.

The actual quote that described it best belongs to the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, who wrote, “…and a child shall lead them.”  Surely, too, he must have foreseen the coming of one Grant Zawadzki, the young sophomore point guard for the Eagles and son of the coach.

TC’s Christian Salazar (#35) scores two of his game-high 19 points over Lehman defender, Michael Jacob.

Hounding Lehman point guard Connor Richard, Zawadzki stole two of the first three Cavalier possessions, accounted for three turnovers in Lehman’s first five trips down the floor, turned them into points, and boosted teammates Christian Salazar, Spencer Thomas, Holden Varvel, and Nathan Kirkpatrick to an impressive 16-9 lead at the end of the quarter.

Lehman, a team so impressive in their win over Versailles, found it tough Friday to get out of its own way.

“I was afraid we’d come out with a bit of a hangover, and we did,”  admitted Isaiah Williams, unable to follow up the Cavaliers’ Tuesday win.  “This was a tough place to play tonight.  They had a great crowd, and we didn’t take the fight back to them.  I was trying my best to get us out of our own way, but give them credit. They were obviously very motivated to play us.”

The fight was taken up, right off the bat, by the young Zawadzki, who proved to be not a leader-in-the-making, but “the leader” of a team that no Division IV opponent should take lightly in the coming two weeks, or thereafter in the sectional tournament.

He only scored 12 points, and six of those came at the free throw line.  But it was his attacking style of play, on offense and defense, that got him to the line…and Lehman out of its sphere of good feeling, just 72 hours after beating Versailles.

For good measure, Zawakzki added eight assists (it seemed twice that many), five steals, and five rebounds.  When Lehman reacted to close the halftime margin to a 30-25 TC lead, he and teammate Nathan Kirkpatrick counter-reacted, shutting down the Cavalier offense in the third quarter, limiting it to just two points.

“We knew we had to come out aggressive,” said Kirkpatrick, a 5’9″ senior.  “They’re coming off a big win, they’ve got some shooters and they’re a very physical team.  We see them a lot during summer basketball and we knew we had to keep them out of the lane and away from the basket.”

Boy howdy!  Greg Spearman, who tallied 21 points in the win over Versailles finished the night with just six.  Only teammate Connor Richard would reach double figures with 11, and did so on the strength of a trio of three-pointers, two of which came in the first half.  Otherwise shut out in the pivotal third quarter, only Jackson Frantz would score off an offensive rebound.

“Nathan is just a beast on defense,”  said Grant Zawadzki, honored for his performance as the Dave Arbogast Star Of The Game on the Press Pros post-game show.  “He really works at it and takes the other team’s best scorer as a personal challenge.  Most teams don’t want their guy to have to play against him.”

And by the time he comes of age those same teams will be saying the same about Zawadzki.

He literally took over the game, attacking the rim, getting to the line, finding the open man, and orchestrating an impressive bench that father Ray liberally substituted into the game.  The Eagles finished shooting 58% from the floor (23 of 40) while holding Lehman to just 38% (15 of 40).  Even more impressive, Troy Christian, in their twelve total trips to the foul line, converted on all twelve…and omen for opponents to come.

They take what you give them.  Their record is no fluke.  And what you don’t give them, they’re more than capable of taking anyway, supported by a raucous home crowd that came out decked in pink Friday, in honor of breast cancer awareness and survivors within the Troy Christian community.

“I think everyone knows that Ray (Zawadzki) has really turned this program around,”  added Kirkpatrick.  “We’ve worked pretty hard to get to this point, and I know the support we had tonight is a very special thing for him.”

“It is special,” said an appreciative Zawadzki senior.  “When I came here we might have had two dozen students who came out for the games…and a couple of seventh graders in the top row that never stood up.  Now look at it.

Former Troy High School coach Steve Nolan was all smiles at the reception he received as the new head football coach at Troy Christian High School.

“Tremendous job defensively tonight,” he continued.  “We were in lockdown mode.  We challenged the kids to play every possession like it was their last.  The third quarter was special when we held them to two points.  Physical play is not our strength, but we did attack them aggressively.  Ball movement and making good decisions…that’s what we’re all about and that’s how we won tonight.  It was great effort by every kid we played.”

And that sophomore point guard named Zawadzki?  Hey Ray, step out of coach mode for a minute.  For goodness sake…go ahead and be a dad.

“We talk about it all the time at home,”  he said with a smile.  “It’s not the points that he goes out there for, he goes out to win.  He defends, he makes steals, he finds shooters in the right spots, he breaks down defenses, and he gets his hands on a lot of loose balls.  He tries to be a good teammate.”

But in the next breath Ray Zawadzki would tell you that, like a Steve Nolan admonition, nothing good comes without work and contribution.  Three players scored in double figures…Salazar (19), Thomas (13) and the “child” that led them, the sophomore (12).  The five starters accounted for 56 of their 60 points.

“We’re blessed here, and I love being here,”  he added.  “It seemed like our entire student body was out there tonight.  If we were the most physical team tonight, the aggressor, I love to hear that because that’s what we’re going to have to be come tournament time.”

Steve Nolan stayed until the end, walking out as the clock wound down to zero.  He had seen what he came to see…competitive zeal, enthusiastic support, and the standing ovation he received as he was announced actually brought a sheepish grin to his face.  The first to congratulate him at midcourt was Ray Zawadzki, representing the template of what can be done when you care enough, believe enough, and do the work to make it happen.

That’s what the new football coach saw on his first night as an Eagle…quite the first impression.

And that part about “a child shall lead them”?

Wouldn’t he like to find one of them next fall?

Think Pink…Both schools and their partisan following showed up in pink Friday to show support for the fight against breast cancer and appreciation for survivors of the disease in the community.

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