MASSILLON, Ohio – Heading into the Division II state championship game, wide receiver Nick Truesdell of Cincinnati Anderson had only 31 receptions for 582 yards and seven TDs on the campaign.
Modest but respectable numbers nonetheless.
But in the 31-25 win over Lousiville, the 6-7, 215-pound wideout had many people wondering exactly where he came from all of the sudden after he caught five passes in the game good for 129 yards and two TDs.
“I don’t think Nick figured out he was any good until about the fifth game,” quipped first-year Anderson head coach Jeff Giesting when asked what accounted for the relatively low number of receptions at the press conference after the game.
“Some of it is learning new things and learning the schemes as we were putting things together. Everything was new this year so it took us (until) about the fourth or fifth game before we could really capitalize on certain things. We used him more as a runner really early in the year and maybe it’s bad coaching we didn’t throw it to him more.”
The Redskins dialed up Truesdell’s number early in the game and he produced two first-quarter TD receptions on their first two offensive possessions of the contest that helped get Anderson out to a quick 14-0 lead.
Truesdell’s lethal combination of size and speed was obvious and on display for most of the first half.
“I didn’t expect to make this big of an impact at all,” said Truesdell, who had four catches for 108 yards at the intermission. “I was nervous coming in and in the warm-ups I was dropping balls but when the game came I was just ready to go.”
On the opening drive of the game that began with a 16-yard run by Truesdell, QB Daniel Rod hit Truesdell in stride on a long pass completion over the middle and when he pulled it in he was off to the races down the left sideline. That 52-yard scoring strike capped a four-play, 67-yard drive to put Anderson up 7-0 with 10:06 on the clock in the first period.
“It was great. As soon as I saw the pass in there, it was perfect from Daniel, I knew I was going to score from there,” said Truesdell who mentioned that he was the primary target on that play. “I wasn’t going to let anybody tackle me.”
And on the very next possession, Rod connected with Truesdell again who went up and grabbed a pass over the top of a Louisville defender and ran a short distance into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 with 7:10 remaining in the first quarter.
After just their first two possessions of the game for Anderson, it was clear that Truesdell created some serious match up problems for the Louisville secondary.
“We’ve had this situation before,” Giesting said. “At the end of the Turpin game they put their best receiver, their 6-5 kid Andy Cruse, on him at the end of the game to try to defend him. But other than that we’ve had a mismatch pretty much all year long because you just don’t see 6-8 kids that can run like he can.”
After Anderson went up 21-0 when Rod ran for three yards and a touchdown around the left end with 2:38 on the clock before halftime, Louisville struck back quickly and scored on a five-play, 62-yard drive that was culminated by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Mathie from Neal Seaman, his first of three TD passes in the game, to slice the deficit to 21-7 with 1:08 left in the first half.
But Truesdell struck again. He returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the Louisville 35 to set up a 19-yard Anderson field goal on the final play of the first half to stretch the lead to 24-7 as both teams headed to their respective locker room.
“He made just a great individual effort and we got down to a position where we could get the field goal which is all we were really hoping for at that point,” Giesting said. “To get up 17 points at the half was really huge for us.”
In just one half of football, Truesdell was well on his way to becoming a state-wide star. Not too bad for someone who’s been concentrating on basketball for the most part up to this point in his career.
“I’ve been playing basketball. I went to Anderson in my freshman year and then I moved,” he said. “And then I moved back this year and it’s been a great year of football.”
“He was our number one recruit this year,” joked Giesting. “He moved back to Anderson. He was here as a freshman and he came back after two years. He and his mother moved back to Anderson this year.”
The sky seems to be the limit for Truesdell now with regards to a future-career on the gridiron after turning in that stellar performance in the state championship contest. Quite surprisingly, up till now, Truesdell, the football player, has been one of the Buckeye State's best kept secrets.
“I haven’t gotten a lot of stuff yet,” Truesdell said. “I’ve gotten a lot of D-II (letters) and stuff but hopefully this game opens it up a lot for me. At the beginning of the year I wasn’t doing all that well, they just used me for running and stuff, and once the playoffs started and everything I started doing really good.”
He’s about as uncertain of his career at the next level as anyone else is at this point.
“I used to think (it was headed) for basketball more but I got better at football this year,” said Truesdell whose teammates call him “T.O.” “I’ve been getting some stuff (from schools) but I don’t know where I want to go yet. It’s all just up in the air. I’ve got basketball too so whatever is best.”
It sounded as if Truesdell is genuinely anxious to see what the future has in store for him now.
“I haven’t really gotten any offers, I just get calls and letters to call them back,” said Truesdell who has never attended any football camps in the past because of his hectic summer AAU schedule. “So I hope I get some now.”