On The Lighter Side: Gary Housteau unveils new weekly column


Gry Housteau’s “On the Lighter Side” column

Welcome to the start of another high school football season.

Some might argue that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” other than
the Christmas season of course!

And welcome to my initial column on J.J. Huddle. Some might argue it’s the
most wonderful high school website of them all. In any season. We sure
think it is.

Welcome to the start of another high school football season.

Some might argue that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” other than
the Christmas season of course!

And welcome to my initial column on J.J. Huddle. Some might argue it’s the
most wonderful high school website of them all. In any season. We sure
think it is.

I’m only hoping to add to this rather eclectic mix with this regular
column, “On The Lighter Side,” that will be geared to showcasing some of
the best high school athletes in Ohio as well as any high school athletes
with extraordinary stories to tell.

I hope to share not only some stories of individual greatness but other
stories where someone achieved personal greatness against all odds as well.
And any other interesting stories and anecdotes that I uncover as I travel
the state of Ohio over the course of the 2008-09 school year, I’ll try to
make that a part of this column as well.

Why “On The Lighter Side?”

I had a regular column with that same title in a family publication that
lasted almost 10 years in Youngstown. “The Valley’s Playbook” was a
monthly sports tabloid that had a life span running from August of 1989 to
sometime around the summer of 1998. It was a Housteau family publication
that covered Youngstown State University and, of course, high school sports
in the Mahoning Valley. The football Penguins at the time had a head coach
by the name of Jim Tressel. Yeah the same guy who’s running the Ohio State
Buckeyes now!

I’ve been very fortunate to have had virtually a front row seat at all of
the national championship runs that Tressel has been a part of during his
already-illustrious collegiate coaching career. But the greatest thing
about Jim Tressel is that he’s a better person than he is a football coach.
Along with having great talent, he’s the main reason why Youngstown State
and Ohio State have been so successful during his tenure at both schools.

When I first started covering sports for “The Vindicator” in Youngstown,
prior to the launch of the Playbook, I couldn’t figure out why people in
this business could complain about so much on one hand and take themselves
so seriously on the other. So I thought a column with the title of “On The
Lighter Side” would always help to keep me grounded as a reporter.

This is fun! And I’ve gotten to meet some great people and coaches and
athletes up close and personal that I would have never have had the chance
to otherwise. I’ve even met some great reporters!

While at “The Valley’s Playbook” I learned, as a relative youngster, to
become the journalist that I am today. I learned to be a better writer
from my oldest brother Chuck, who still does some work for “The
Vindicator,” and I stumbled into photography because of my other brother
Ray, who was once a contestant on The Amazing Race. And along the way,
I’ve seen it all. The publication business has evolved so much in the 20
or so years that I’ve been in it. From cut and paste using an extremely
slow computer when we started out, to what the fast-speed digital world
gives us today. It’s been a great ride.

And it continues to get better every year.

Through my work at “The Valley’s Playbook” I met Steve Helwagen who worked
for “Buckeye Sports Bulletin” at the time. I started doing stories for him
and that continued on when he moved over to his current position at
Bucknuts.com some four years ago and I followed him there shortly after. I
wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Steve and I’m very grateful to him
for that. Things are just great over at Bucknuts.com.

I’m so fortunate to be able to work for a company that runs not only one of
the best high school websites in the country, if not the best, but one of
the best college sites in the country, if not the best, as well.

So one of my ultimate aims for this column is to help connect the dots even
more between this terrific high school fan site to that of our sister
publication that some of you Ohio State fans reading this column might not
even be aware of. If you’re any kind of an Ohio State fan you need to
frequent that site, as well as this one, on a regular basis.

Most of my feature story writing and photography is done for Bucknuts and
some of it trickles down to this site. Hopefully, by writing this column
now, some of my focus will be shifted to some of the talented high school
athletes that aren’t all Ohio State material.

I’m excited for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to working more with
Matt Natali who does a terrific job of keeping this site running smoothly.
Guys like Matt and Kirk Larrabee over at Bucknuts don’t get half the praise
they deserve for the work they do behind the scenes.

And I’ll probably be working even more with Mark Porter now of
ScoutingOhio.com. What an incredible website and following that he has
built for his site in a relatively short period of time. Mark, a tireless
worker, has all but redefined the scouting business in this state and it’s
such a privilege to have someone with his talent contributing to this site.
What an amazing success story he is.

I’m going to jump into this new venture feet first as the start of the high
school is upon us. Living in Northeast Ohio, a majority of my work,
unfortunately, is centered on the northern part of the state. That’s just
how it is. But writing this column should afford me an opportunity to
expand the areas that I cover.

With your help, I’m asking any high school fan in Ohio, in any sport, to
inform me of some of the extraordinary things or people in your own little
neck of the woods so that I can share some of those stories in this very
column. Just drop me a note at gary@bucknuts.com and let me in on a story
that you think is worthy of some extra attention and I’ll do the rest. I’m
counting on your input to help make this a successful column.

If you’re a high school teacher, coach, athletic director or principal and
you think you have a story that needs to be told concerning on of the
student-athletes at your school, then let me know about it. Or if you’re a
proud parent of an athlete who’s done something incredible, then make me
aware of it as well.

In the meantime, I’ll finish out my initial column by sharing some of the
impressions I have going into the high school football team.

Like Duane Long and Bill Kurelic, I too evaluate players but in a less
formal manner than they do. After watching so many of the best high school
players each and every weekend over the years, I can tell you that the
really good players just jump right out at you. And when I see a really
good player, I like to tell people about them.

I think the best overall prospect in the class of 2009 is Marcus Hall of
Cleveland Glenville. For the longest time, Johnny Simon of Cardinal Mooney
and Storm Klein of Licking Valley were my two top players in Ohio, 1a and
1b, but the more I see of Hall, I first spotted him in San Antonio at the
U.S. Army All-American combine in the summer before his sophomore year, the
more I’m convinced that he can be as dominant a player at the next level as
Mike Adams, from Dublin Coffman, is going to be.

After those top three, Melvin Fellows of Garfield Heights and Chris Fields
of Painesville Harvey round out my top five. Jamie Wood of Pickerington
Central, Adam Bellamy of Aurora and Corey Linsley of Boardman are next in
the pecking order. Jack Mewhort of St. John’s and Will Studlien of Big
Walnut complete my top 10. Unfortunately Studlien suffered a setback when
he injured his knee playing rugby but I’m not going to penalize him for
that. Studlien will recover fully, at some point, and he’ll likely become
an even better player.

I’m sure you can see the northern bias right there but you can’t deny the
talent that any of those guys in my Top Ten possess. These are all top-end
players and Ohio State is fortunate to have verbal commitments from eight
of the 10 at this time. Only Hall, who everyone expects will be come a
Buckeye, and Studlien are not future property of the Buckeyes at this time.

But where most of the top-rated individual players seem to come out of the
north, the best teams right now seem to be in the southern part of the
state. Especially the top two divisions.

You apparently have to go through Region 4 if you want to win a D-I state
championship. I’m guessing Steve Specht will have his Bombers at St.
Xavier doing great things again this year and Pickerington Central just
might be the best team in Central Ohio, but I think this could finally be
the year that Glenville can reach the title and claim that elusive
championship for Ted Ginn Sr. I’m going with the Tarblooders to beat
Boardman again and win Region I and advance to the title game and win it.
They have a key match up in week one against St. Ignatius and that game
should indeed give us an indication if they’re poised for a championship
run this year or not.

In D-II Howland has one of the best players in all of Ohio that nobody even
talks about. Tyler Scott is a football player to be reckoned with for the
Tigers on both sides of the ball. I think they may have enough experience
in key positions coming back to win Region Five and give Dick Angle a
legitimate shot to win a state championship in D-II. I think the Tigers
may have to go through RB/LB Brad Rogers and the Irish of Central Catholic
at some point in order to do that. The transfer in of Mike Marrow, who
played at New Albany last year, should help their cause in Region 6. Could
the reigning champion Anderson High School under Jeff Giesting out of
Region 8 have enough back to successfully defend their title against either
of those two opponents if they matched up in the final? I think so.

D-III is stacked with solid competition. I like Walsh Jesuit to emerge in
a difficult Region 9. Cameron Ontko is a name you’ll be hearing a lot
about over the next two years. In fact Walsh opens the season against
Storm Klein and the Panthers of Licking Valley. What an opening game that
should be. I’d actually like to see a rematch of this one in the
championship game. I’m going with Licking Valley out of Region 11 to not
only get back to the state title game this year, but win it. With Klein,
all things are possible for Ralph Baughman’s Panthers .

In D-IV we could see an abrupt end to Mooney’s dynasty that netted them two
state titles over the past four years. I think Adam Homan and the
Coldwater Cavaliers should be the team to beat again this year. Of course
you can’t count out teams like Kettering Alter and Steubenville this year
but John Reed’s Cavaliers out of Region 16 are the team to beat.

Youngstown Ursuline out of Region 17 should not only get back to the D-V
title game this year but they should win it rather easily. They have more
talent than you’ll find on many D-I teams led by juniors Jamel Turner and
DeAndre Harris and seniors Darrell Mason and Dale Peterman. No other teams
need apply.

And in D-VI I’m going to go with the winner of Region 21 to win here. If
you have to pin me down any further I’ll go with Hopewell-Loudon to knock
off St. Paul in the regional final and get back to the state title game
behind Tyler Brown again and win it this time.

As far as the opening weekend is concerned, I’ll basically stay in the
north for the entire weekend as the season gets underway for me tonight at
Aurora where Bellamy and the Greenmen will take on QB Ryan O’Rourke and the
Avon Eagles. I look for Aurora to jump out to a 1-0 start.

On Friday night I’ll catch Chris Fields and the Harvey Red Raiders at Ben
Moody’s Lakeview Bulldogs and, as much as I like Fields as a playmaker,
I’ll give the advantage to the home team Bulldogs who were the surprise of
all of Region 9 last season.

And finally you’ll catch me at Byers Field in Parma to see Glenville take
on St. Ignatius in this week in monster match up. The winner of this one
should go on to a have a tremendous season this year and I’m taking Marcus
Hall and Jonathan Newsome’s Tarblooders over Dan Fox’s Wildcats.

Have a great weekend and see you right back here next week.

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