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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Why you grill, imbibe, watch more college football, and just hang with your friends on this Labor Day, here’s some of our own thoughts about what we saw and what we’ll remember from this year’s holiday weekend.

I always think of my dad on Labor Day.  He’s been gone now for five years, but Labor Day weekend was always a benchmark day for him.

For while others rested from the other 364 days of their work throughout the year, Dad always took this particular holiday for more work he wanted to do…and a free 24 hours in which to do it.  He’d be out working in the garden, splitting wood, stacking it in out of the weather, anything to prepare for the coming winter.  This day was that one day that gave him opportunity to get just a little bit ahead…an advantage.

I’m sure (if you believe in such things) he’s looking down me right now shaking his head, and thinking – “You could be doing something worthwhile and instead you’re just…typing, writing.  And who’s going to read it, anyway?”

But as is my custom on Labor Day weekend I’ve taken to reflect on that one thing that most of us will be obsessive about this weekend, and that’s football – high school this past Friday night and all those college games played on Saturday, Sunday, and later this evening when Florida State tees it up against Mississippi.

What were my my impressions of the first truly full weekend of football?

Well, for the sake of high school I observed two really impressive performances – one as a team and one in terms of individual, standout performance.

state_farm_284x150The impressive team was Tipp City, who literally throttled former CBC (Central Buckeye Conference) rival Springfield Shawnee last Thursday night.  Impressive for the fact that a lot of questions have been asked about the Red Devils in the past 24 months.  Charlie Burgbacher retired as head coach and assistant Joel Derge took over.  You expected a change in fortune?  Derge hasn’t missed a beat.

You expected change in the football culture at Tipp?  It appears to be as popular as ever, if not more under the youthful young coach, short in stature but tall in the eyes of his players.  They obviously like playing for him and respect his passion for competition and winning.

You expected a dip in Tipp football this year after graduating all the starters last spring…and moving up to the bigger football expectations of the GWOC conference?  They’re now 2-0, seemingly playing with more confidence in each passing practice, or game, and creating some real anticipation in Monroe Township of what could lie ahead when they play the likes of ‘bigs’, Troy, Piqua, and Sidney.  We’ll see then, but for now…impressive.  Well done!

Minster's Bryce Schmiesing had the individual standout performance for the weekend...264 yards rushing a two touchdowns against Lehman.

Minster’s Bryce Schmiesing had the individual standout performance for the weekend…264 yards rushing a two touchdowns against Lehman.

As far as the individual standout of the weekend…it has to be Minster’s Bryce Schmiesing and his 264 yards rushing and two touchdowns on Friday night against Lehman.  Lehman, by the way, is a pretty good football team;  and will be a good football team for the rest of the way, despite their 0-2 start.  They seem to always start 0-2 and then win the next eight and make the playoffs.  They just weren’t a good football team on Friday against Minster.

I’ve watched Schmiesing for the past three years play in the shadow of Josh Nixon, Eli Wolf, and others, but recognized him as a tough competitive kid waiting for his turn to lead.  And Friday, he did just that.  He has one season left, this is it, and he gave notice against Lehman that he should not be taken for granted (nor should his team) as an also-ran in the football-tough MAC conference.

For the longest time he was bearing down on the school record of 302 rushing yards in a single game.  He didn’t get that, but he got something more important.  They won.  They’re now 2-0.  And now, suddenly, Minster has to be thought of in a different respect as to how competitive they’ll be in the overall conference picture.  It’s a team game, of course, but Schmiesing’s 264 yards suddenly brought individual attention to just how formidable the Wildcats might yet become.

And finally, I really didn’t bother to watch much of the Ohio State game on Saturday.  What’s to watch when it’s 77-10?

Rather, I had the opportunity to go to Athens and see Ohio University lose 56-54 to a team called Texas State…in three overtimes!

The most exciting game of the weekend?  OU losing to Texas State...in three overtimes!

The most exciting game of the weekend? OU losing to Texas State…in three overtimes!

Who’s Texas State?  Well, one of those lesser Texas schools that labors in the shadow of the Big 12 teams like Baylor, Texas, and SEC power, Texas A&M.  “We get all the 3-star kids that the bigger schools pass over,” was how one school official termed the Texas State program.  But those 3-star recruits proved Saturday that they can play, and play hard.

For their part, I wrote then, and reiterate now, that Ohio University is a great place to play, and watch, football.  The Bobcats are competitive, they’re affordable, and they offer the different picture of Division I college football apart from huge crowds, huge expense, and the constant lottery and contributions you’re asked to make if you want better tickets…or tickets at all!

It was fun to watch, even if the home team didn’t win…for the fact of seeing some local kids like A.J. Ouellette (Covington) and Austin Clack (Tipp City) in uniform.  And even better, there was no traffic jam leaving Athens when the game was over.  Five minutes after you leave the friendly confines of Peden Stadium you can be on route 33 west heading back home.

No, it’s not the Buckeyes, and respect to them for what they are.

But sometimes it’s just nice to see college football up close and personal when you can actually be up close, and feel that it really is…personal.

Forget about cutting and stacking firewood today.  Happy Labor Day…everyone!

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