Blanchard River Buzz

A blog for rabid sports fans in the Findlay Area. Maintained by Findlay Courier sports writer Jamie Baker. The opinions expressed are my own crazed ramblings and not those of my employer the Findlay Publishing Company and its subsidiaries.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Football Tab

I’m done with my vacation and it’s time to go back to work today. Essentially, we’re in the stretch run. It’s the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

Prep football camps open next week and it will be time to work on The Courier’s annual football tab. You usually have about a week to gather all the information, visit the camp and get your story and other information needed for the tab written. The only problem is you have between 7-9 of these to do during that one week.

It’s a busy, busy time. You also have to take care of our normal job every night at the newspaper getting the section ready to publish the next day.

Our biggest project of the year is the Courier’s high school football tab.

What’s the best part of the football tab? What would you like to see in it that you don’t see? Do you read it cover to cover? Do you keep it and look at it as reference throughout the season?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Can they compete?

Back to preps.

I was pretty naughty in May. I wrote a column that started a whole big flap about Liberty-Benton and people complaining that they are too big for the Blanchard Valley Conference. And I said, simply put, you don’t like the Eagles winning in track then get better. Put more into your programs and take it more seriously.

Sure they have a numbers edge, there’s no doubt about that. But when they get on the football field with Hardin Northern, that doesn’t stop the Polar Bears from trying and in most recent years knocking their blocks off.

Anyway, only Cory-Rawson fields as many boys sports in the fall than Liberty-Benton does. In addition to football, they have golf, soccer and cross country.

Really the only school that might have a beef is Vanlue because they are so much smaller than anyone else in the rest of the conference. I’ve never heard a complaint from the folks at Vanlue. They know they are at a disadvantage numerically but they go out on the field and courts and do the best they can with what they have every time out.

My question of the day is that does Liberty-Benton’s enrollment advantage make a difference?

Only two schools have never won a Blanchard Valley Conference football crown…Arcadia and Vanlue.

Can they win it in the next 10, 20 or 30 years? What do they have to do to win the conference?
Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Browns blow

My God, I pray to thee…please let it end.

That is my prayer today. It’s been two days since new Browns starting center and former Ohio State standout LeCharles Bentley went down with a season-ending knee injury. He was the top free agent acquisition in the offseason and now he's done for the season after blowing out his knee during the club's first 7-on-7 drills of training camp.

My question is when will it end? I read a column in the Plain Dealer that Romeo Crennel isn’t buying into the woe-is-us mentality Browns fans like myself often exhibit. That’s a great idea but when you have experienced what we have experienced as fans…and then paid for it by buying season tickets with our own hard-earned money…its tough not to think to yourself here we go again.

Ever since the Browns came back in 1999 it’s been one thing after another. Wasted draft choices, coaches without a clue, owner Al Lerner‘s death, squabbles and power struggles inside the front office, injuries on and off the field and losses everywhere you look. All we have to show for the misery is one playoff appearance.

And still I shell out $404 each year for my season tickets. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst. I guess that’s just my lot in life as a Browns fan.

Are there any Browns fans out there as frustrated as me? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Thursday, July 27, 2006


In sports, there’s nothing like beating your biggest rival.

When I think of sports rivalries the rivalries between schools and sports franchises those involving Ohio State-Michigan, Steelers-Browns, Bears-Packers and Yankees-Red Sox immediately come to mind.

What about in this area? Which rivalries are the top prep battles in the area?

The Findlay-Fostoria and Findlay-Lima Senior battles used to be the Trojans big games but they don’t play Fostoria in many sports since the Redmen parted ways with Great Lakes League and the Lima Senior football series hasn’t been competitive in recent years. I’m not sure the Trojans have a primary rival right now.

In the Blanchard Valley Conference, the biggest rivalries in football tend to be the non-conference openers. They are usually backyard brawls with neighborhood pride on the line.

Cory-Rawson vs. Bluffton
Pandora-Gilboa vs. Columbus Grove
Riverdale vs. Arlington
Leipsic vs. Patrick Henry
Hardin Northern vs. Ada

Other than the annual battle between Arcadia and Vanlue, I’m not sure there are any games between the other BVC schools than loom a little larger than any other. Of course, since Hardin Northern has been a dominant team in the conference everyone wants to knock them off.
Here is my list of top 10 rivalry games involving at least one school from
The Courier coverage area…

1. Arcadia vs. Vanlue -- Biggest game on the schedule for these two schools and their communities. Everything is left on the field in this one.

2. Carey vs. Mohawk -- Fans from adjoining school districts who genuinely hate one another. Many families split on both sides of this rivalry. The 50-50 drawing is always a biggie.

3. Cory-Rawson vs. Bluffton -- An excellent small school neighborhood rivalry. Since it’s in Week I it’s sometimes a barometer of how the winning team’s season is going to go.

4. Riverdale vs. Arlington -- Not much love lost between these schools dating back to before consolidation for Riverdale. Arlington has dominated the rivalry recently though.

5. Bluffton vs. Columbus Grove -- These schools have probably played between 70-80 times and in recent years league championships and playoff appearances have almost always been on the line.

6. Patrick Henry vs. Liberty Center -- There’s always a lot of pride and plenty of computer points on the line in this Battle of Henry County.

7. Pandora-Gilboa vs. Columbus Grove -- Route 12 Rivalry. A Pandora-Gilboa win over the Bulldogs produces plenty of computer points and usually means they will be a factor in the BVC race.

8, Hardin Northern vs. Ada -- Hardin Northern has dominated the series recently between the neighboring Hardin County schools.

9, Carey vs. Upper Sandusky -- Longstanding rivalry that was renewed a few years ago. It’s a much bigger game for Carey than it is for Upper but it’s probably one of the biggest gates of the year for both schools.

10, Elmwood vs. Eastwood -- The Suburban Lakes League’s “Battle of the Woods” has been a great game the past few seasons.

Which rivalries do you like most? Have any memories of playing your rivals in school?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sweat, sweat and more sweat!

Ahhh the dog days of summer. Lining up to get your pads. Seniors first, then juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

It's nearly that time of year. I remember two-a-days. Those were the days. You woke up in the morning both looking forward to and dreading what was in store for you that day.

Blazing heat, wind sprints, jumping jacks, all kinds of drills, sweat-soaked t-shirts under your shoulder pads and numerous water breaks. Like thousands of kids across the country I loved football and I would rather have dropped dead right there than miss a game or a practice.

The first couple of days were spent running through offensive plays and doing a lot of conditioning and running in just your helmet or sometimes in full pads. I'll tell you the first couple of days were the toughest. You had your pads and all you wanted to do was knock the snot out of somebody.

Finally the day you have been waiting for came. Full contact. It was great. The coaches found out a lot the first day of practice. You either liked contact or didn't. I liked contact.

I'm curious to know what others remember most about two-a-days. What did you like? What did you hate? What was your toughest drill?

Will Simrell right the ship?

Will the 2006 season be a return to glory for the University of Findlay football program or will the team continue its struggles in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The schedulemaker wasn't any too kind to Dan Simrell's Oilers. They open the season on the road against a Charleston team that was 8-3 last season and follow that game with a home contest at Donnell Stadium against defending NCAA Division II champion Grand Valley State and then a game against another NCAA Division II top-10 contender in Northwood.

You can download the 2006 UF football media guide by clicking here.

Last season the Oilers started the year with a 3-0 record but proceeded to lose their final 8 games. Simrell, who has a 29-36 record in 6 seasons as head coach, got a contract extension just prior to the season-ending losing streak.

One thing they will need to do is play much better defense. UF allowed more than 33 points per game last season. A new defensive coordinator could make the difference and Findlay has a new one in former FHS and Miami University standout Jon Wauford.

Some new blood and an intense attitude may be just what the Oilers need to get better defensively and Wauford could be the one to bring that to the table. He also might be the perfect person to replace Simrell, if and when he decides to move on.

Can the University of Findlay football program compete with the elite in Division II like the University's men's basketball, wrestling and soccer programs or are they destined for mediocrity?

Does anyone even care about or follow UF football anymore?

Going camping

NFL players will report for training camp during the next week or so. Big Ben won't be the only former area prep player competing for a job in the NFL this year.

Former Findlay High School and Ohio State University kicked Josh Huston signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears and will report to their training camp to compete for a roster spot.

Former Ada standout and Kent State University starter Josh Brazen signed with Buffalo and will work out with the Bills at training camp as a punter.

Of course, Big Ben recovering from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident last month will begin working out at Steelers Camp in Latrobe, Pa. later this week.

Even though I am a big Browns fan, I still hope Big Ben is fully recovered from his injuries. When the Browns beat the Steelers this year, I don't want to hear any excuses because Ben wasn't in the lineup. Plus I wouldn't wish those injuries on anyone not even a Pittsburgh quarterback.

I'll tell you honestly, I never expected Big Ben to be as good as he's been ever since he came into the NFL. Bt the Super Bowl ring on his finger speaks for itself.

What about the other two NFL hopefuls -- Huston and Brazen. Well, I figure they are probably longshots to make their teams. But a good training camp showing might get them an invite back next season and another shot. Buffalo's starting punter went to training camp three straight seasons with the Bills before he finally made the team.

Even if Huston and Brazen don't make the team and they perform well, they'll get another shot eventually.

Three questions

Will Ben have another terrific season and will he lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl?

Will Huston and Brazen be wearing an NFL uniform at the end of training camp?

And who will be the area's next NFL player be? The only area major college player I can even think of is Fostoria's Marcus Hyde who will be a freshman at Michigan State.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What do you want to see in your sports section?

We get complaints all the time at The Courier. Some are certainly justified and others are not.

I guess the biggest complaint we get is that we favor certain schools above others. Well in a way that is true. Of course, we cover Findlay High School more than the other 30 schools in our coverage area. It's by far the largest school and the city's population makes up about half of the county's entire population.

That said, we don't favor one county school over another. Let's face it though if you win, you get the headlines. If the team you follows loses then you may not even want to read about it in the newspaper (just kidding of course).

It's tough sometimes to compare newspapers. People sometimes compare us to smaller papers like the Kenton Times. What people don't realize is that they may cover 4 or 5 schools while we have 30 schools to cover. Same with The Blade. They cover more schools than we do so there will be a bigger gap in their coverage of Findlay area schools.

It's tough sometimes to get everything in the paper that goes on locally because of space considerations. But we do our best.

So what do you want to see more of in the sports section? More features on area athletes? More game coverage? More or less coverage of the so-called minor sports like soccer, volleyball, golf, etc? More national news? Local prep football stats? Football preview capsules?

In your opinion what are we doing right and what can we do better? In addition feel free to submit any story ideas that you think should be touched on.

Putting on the Ritz...

It's 2006 AC for the Findlay High School football team this season.

AC stands for after Cliff. But hometowner Mark Ritzler takes over the program so I don't think there will be that much of a problem with a transition.

But it was Cliff that essentially resurrected the football program so I'm sure Ritzler knows he has some big shoes to fill and the even bigger expectations that go along with taking over a program that has had the success Findlay has recently.

There's plenty of returning talent. No one can deny that and it should be a fun season playing the likes of St. John's Jesuit, Dublin Coffman and Upper Arlington and not to mention showcasing the program's skills in the Herbstreit Classic.

What are the expectations? How do you think the Trojans will do this season? Is another piece of Greater Buckeye Conference hardware in the offing? Or a playoff birth?

Who will challenge the Trojans in the GBC?

Blanchard Valley Conference pigskin!

There's not much time left. A week or so and conditioning will begin and a new prep football season will be underway.

There was a time when the BVC didn't earn much respect outside of the conference. That's definitely not the case anymore.

Hardin Northern's success in the playoffs under Pete Brunow has helped to change all of that. The BVC is now one of the most well-respected small school football conference's in the entire state. As well it should be.

I might not have said that when I first started at The Courier back in 1995 but with HN and McComb's past playoff success coupled with a Liberty-Benton program that is playing at its highest level ever you can't deny the BVC is a solid small-school football conference.

I always said it was tough to compare the play in the BVC compared to many other conferences because it was virtually insulated. You played one non-conference game in high school and all of your other games from the varsity level on down to junior high were played against fellow conference schools.

It's too bad they only get to play one non-conference game a year. I'd love to see a Hardin Northern-Columbus Grove or McComb-Carey match up every single year. But with a 10-team league it's the nature of the beast.

On to a question for today...

Which football teams would you rate as the BVC's best since the league was formed in 1965?

And which coaches would you want to lead you out on the field as a player and why?

Metzger, Berry, Brunow, Banning, Alge, Garlock or someone else?

Welcome to the Buzz

Hopefully we can get some Findlay and Northwest Ohio area sports fans to read and contribute to this blog on a regular basis.

About me...I'm Jamie Baker and I've worked for the Findlay Courier Sports Department since 1995. That's 11 long years covering athletes and coaches from around the area.

In that time I've learned a lot about the area sports scene. During that time I've seen a young Findlay High School quarterback grow up to direct his team to the Super Bowl Championship, watched the rise and fall of ice hockey at the University of Findlay and seen countless prep athletes realize their state championship dreams.

The first thing I want to say is that the opinions expressed on this forum are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily endorsed by the Findlay Publishing Company.

What I would like to see is feedback and interaction. What do you want to see more of in the newspaper or less of? I want to know what we do well and what needs work. Constructive criticism is always welcome and appreciated.

I'll try and post something new each and every day.