Friday night, Ryan Mullins should have been dressed in red, white
and blue and starting at linebacker for Grove City High School.
Instead, he donned a black and white referee’s shirt and was a member
of the Westfall High School student section. “This is the worst,” Mullins said. “I’m thinking about leaving. I should be out there making every play.”
Friday night, Ryan Mullins should have been dressed in red, white and blue and starting at linebacker for Grove City High School. Instead, he donned a black and white referee’s shirt and was a member of the Westfall High School student section.
“This is the worst,” Mullins said. “I’m thinking about leaving. I should be out there making every play.”
Instead of tackling ball carriers, Mullins tackles emotions these days. He’s a star with nowhere to shine.
On August 5 voters in the South-Western City Schools District rejected a levy request (by just 564 votes) for a four-year, 8.3-mill property tax for the second straight time. As a result all four of the district’s high schools – Central Crossing, Westland, Franklin Heights and Grove City – were stripped of extra-curriculars. Mullins was stripped of opportunity.
A seasoned player who earned first team All-Ohio Capital Conference Ohio Division honors last season, Mullins would have been a three-year starter at Grove City this fall. Instead he chose not to start over.
While several of his former teammates have transferred to new schools, Mullins stayed put – if not content.
“I couldn’t play anywhere else,” Mullins said. “It just wouldn’t have been the same. I’ve grown up with Grove City football all my life and I’ve gone to all the games. This just doesn’t have the same feel.”
Many tried to make it fit though.
Westfall and Teays Valley is a solid Pickaway County rivalry, but the match-up increased in intensity and popularity this season when several South-Western City Schools kids decided to transfer to each of those districts. The attendance Friday reflected that.
A scan of the parking lots around Teays Valley High School revealed plenty of Grove City bumper stickers and “Dawgs” references. Both crowds were littered with Grove City hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
“When the levy was going back up for vote in August a lot of kids had already decided to go to different schools,” Grove City senior Adam Boggs said. “We knew then we’d support them.”
With his face-painted and a pair of shoulder pads exposed, Boggs was one of the more visible Grove City students in the Westfall student section. He’s also a baseball player who hopes to get to play for his school in the spring.
“Even if the levy fails again (in November) I’m probably going to stay,” Boggs said. “It’s hard to leave Grove City.”
Especially if you’ve played football there.
“(Football) is pretty much life and death in Grove City,” Kyle Schneider said. “Either you play or you don’t. That’s the mentality.”
Schneider, like Mullins, is a Grove City senior who chose to forgo playing his senior year of football by staying at GC. It was a hard decision, but one he’s comfortable with.
“You look in the stands here and there’s maybe 3,000 people,” Schneider said. “At Grove City you have 10,000-plus in the stands and the student section is crazy. There’s nothing like it. This doesn’t compare. If you’ve ever been to a game there you know it’s not like playing anywhere else.”
Several athletes did choose to play elsewhere and many were on display Friday.
Seldom did the Teays Valley announcer speak and not say a name from Grove City.
Westfall has eight former Grove City players on its roster (including Vinnie Williamson, Clay Hill, Gabe Whiteside, Jared Abrams and Tyler McCoy), while Teays Valley’s top two players – running back Jordan Sturgell and quarterback Trevor Cowles – are both GC transplants. All seven players were teammates 12 months ago.
“They are all our dudes,” Boggs said. “We came here to root for both sides.”
And rooting is one thing Boggs, Schneider and Mullins will have plenty of time to pursue on upcoming Fridays.
It’s football season, but not for them. At least not on the field anyway.
“After the levy failed on August 5 we asked each other ‘What are we going to do on Friday nights?’” Mullins said. “So we made our own little traveling student section. We’re going to go to Westfall games and hit up some big rivalries and some key games.
“I mean what else do we have to do on Friday night?”