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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More than one Press Pros reader responded to the recent column suggesting that expanding the playoffs did little more than make it easier for the perennial teams to play for one more OHSAA state title.

With thanks…to Press Pros readers who wrote this week to respond to our recent column (Was The ‘Fuss’ Worth It?), questioning whether expanding the 2021 OHSAA football playoffs to 16 teams per region served any measurable benefit.

Many of you shared that the ‘one’ measurable that anyone could count was that which spends – money. More teams mean more games, more tickets, and more revenue…the overwhelming suggestion among those who questioned the move from the start.

Some took the question into different parameters, one suggesting the hastening of eight-man football for those schools (especially the small ones) who traditionally have come short of the standard set by Marion Local, Kirkland, Coldwater, and some of the private, or parochial schools (Newark Catholic).

One in particular suggested that the pursuit of the OHSAA championship – and sixteen games to get it – simply does not serve many of the rank-and-file members who have never, and WILL never, come close the final game in Canton.

“It’s not enough to just play football for fun, not like it was when I played,” wrote Richard Kuehn. “It was a big deal then to beat our rival school. Now that school doesn’t even exist.”

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But what most asked was this. What can be done to make it better? Is there any change that makes sense – that’s even practical for the school that may only have 22 boys out for football?

And the answer to that…is yes…and it’s called perspective! It’s been there since Knute Rockne and the ‘four horsemen’, Army-Navy, the ‘Gipper’, broken noses and busted teeth. And backyard games on Thanksgiving Day.

Here it is!

Make your local league title the priority it should be! Take care of business at home first, without respect or comparison to the rest of state, or rankings, or the OHSAA. Block out all that internet $%#& about playoffs, and recruiting, and public vs. private. MAKE IT A BIG DEAL…to just be the champion of the XYZ league!

Stupid, you say? A step backwards? Out of touch with contemporary motivation and adolescent achievement?

No, not if you EMPHASIZE WINNING on a smaller scale…first! As it stands now, we hardly talk about, or write about, winning the the local conference crown. In part, because there may be two divisions in leagues the size of the OCC or GWOC, and there’s no championship game between division winners, so no one really ever knows who the true champion is. That’s messed up.

And make winning the league title something better than just “Congratulations. Here’s your trophy.” Make the trophy really special – glass, gaudy, and something worthy of putting on display – something to be proud of, and not just a piece of wood and tin that gets lost in lobby. In a day of imagination, there is no imagination when it comes to league trophies. They all look alike – very easy to ignore.

You can take this well beyond the fact of a better bling. There’s no shortage of ways to make local focus a greater priority.

But you’ve got to start somewhere when you only have 22 boys, or no history at all of competing for the ‘state’ title. Take some baby steps, attract positive local attention to your program, and see where it goes from there. Quit dreaming about Canton and start dreaming about winning the rivalry game against Bug Tussle.

Silly? Stupid? Condescending?

The biggest concern of people who wrote was that of how to get boys interested in playing football…or any sport, for that matter. And as one suggested: “Struggling to win five games, being the #16 seed, and getting beat 51-0 by #1 is not the answer.”

Start small if you must. “It used to be a big deal to beat our rival school. Now, that school doesn’t even exist.”

I agree. Set different goals. Be realistic. Play for the fun of playing rather than trying to impress a media poll – someone that’s never seen you play in person. Conquer Bug Tussle first, and worry about the playoffs when you’re ready for that step.

Study and understand how Marion Local back then became to the Marion Local of today. You could have hardly been smaller than they were; and they’re still Division VII. If you have to start someplace, make your someplace as special as you can.

You may never, ever, get to Canton. But it doesn’t mean you can’t play, have fun, and achieve!

And appreciate this.

Hall of famer Jim Brown – the greatest running back, ever – was recruited to Syracuse University to play football because he was discovered…as a lacrosse player.

‘The Spot’ Restaurant, in Sidney, is proud to be the presenting sponsor of the 2021 OHSAA State Football Tournament on PressProsMagazine.com.

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