Ballpark Frank: High school sports will return to Tallmadge! For now, at least

FRANK ACETO
Reporter
Tallmadge's Emma Eyre goes for a kill against Akron East's Dantea Hopson, left, and Mykia Whitehead during a match last season.

We weren’t required to build an ark.

Nevertheless, many of us may have resembled Noah when the global pandemic began.

As the government allowed businesses to open several weeks after the unprecedented mandatory lockdown was put into place, we, like the biblical patriarch, couldn’t help but feel somewhat apprehensive about our surroundings.

In other words, we needed to release our own version of a dove before we dared to set foot outside.

And forgive us for being suspicious.

Although Noah’s prophetic winged creature brought a freshly-picked olive leaf, pardon us 21st-century folks if we show a hint of skepticism.

In today’s world, if our winged creature brought something similar to us, our response would probably sound something like this: “Is it contaminated?”

Fortunately, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for high school athletes.

For now, at least.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association recently made plans to move forward with fall sports in 2020 despite ongoing concerns about the mysterious respiratory tract infection known as COVID-19.

If all goes well, we may be able to fulfill Warren Harding’s well-intentioned message. And as if fate would have it, his slogan took place not long after a — you guessed it — global pandemic.

“America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy,” the 29th U.S. President and Ohio native once said.

Of course, if things don’t go according to plan, well, we could have a modern-day engulfing flood.

An invisible one, that is.

As for me, I’ll consider Harding’s “tranquility at home” and treat this upcoming season as … normal.

Or some semblance of it, at least.

So, if we are going to play ball this autumn without any interruptions, what could we have in store for those who live near the Tallmadge Circle?

In a word: newness.

Several familiar names who once proudly wore blue and gold colors have left North Munroe Road for good.

And with apologies to a former post-World War I commander in chief, a number of those athletes were anything but “normal.”

Let’s take the girls cross country team, for instance.

The Blue Devils had their greatest season ever in 2019, thanks mainly to a pair of Hall of Famers who will be running in college.

Led by legendary 2020 graduates Kenna Loveless and Ravyn Edge, Tallmadge finished third at the Division II state competition.

The volleyball team can relate.

Just like they have done for so many years, the Blue Devils electrified their fans with another sensational effort last fall. Tallmadge finished 19-6 and was a Division II district runner-up for the fourth consecutive year.

Four gifted young ladies, Amelia Perdue, Sydney Kirker, Jill Catalano and Katie Seeker, carried the Blue Devils every step of the way.

They won’t this year. That’s because these four queens of swing graduated during the spring.

So did Lizzie Bickar.

All this once-in-a-lifetime teenager did was play a pivotal role in transforming a once seemingly eternal punching bag into a very respectable golf team.

Bickar won a Division I sectional title as a senior and led Tallmadge to 12 wins during her final two years on the course.

Not bad for a team that couldn’t beat anyone before the Bickar era arrived.

Thankfully, the Blue Devils’ star power didn’t totally vanish during graduation day.

Loveless and Edge quickly learned that “cat” naps were prohibited if they wanted to take the top two spots in every race.

That’s because Kat Carter, a rising sophomore, emerged as an alpha female in her own right after qualifying for the state competition as an individual.

The boys cross country team has a returning state qualifier, too. Tommy Naiman, a rising senior, will try to make his final curtain a daily double after a breakthrough season the previous year.

Darin Hudak is back as well.

The rising senior could be in the same category as highly-accomplished golfers Rickie Fowler or Matt Kuchar.

Sadly, it’s not exactly a popular club: best player to never win a major.

While Hudak has certainly established himself as one of the top players in the area, his ultimate goal has yet to materialize.

Fortunately, he has one more shot. Hudak hopes to end his career in style with his first trip to the state tournament.

As for the rest of the teams, they have some work to do after difficult seasons the previous autumn. Although it did win a postseason game, the girls soccer team had a losing record.

So did the boys soccer, girls tennis and football teams. Despite Hudak’s heroics, Tallmadge’s boys golf team finished a disappointing sixth in the Suburban League American Conference.

Now that we have an idea of what could be in store for the Blue Devils this fall, will we see some new superstars emerge?

Will someone come out of the woodwork and make our jaws drop?

Alas, this question might be more appropriate: Will we play … at all?

I certainly hope so. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of being enclosed in my “ark” as I wait for the rain to stop.

I’m not the least bit interested in spending any more time cowering in my “boat” of resinous wood.

Let’s hope for a wonderful fall season for those who bleed blue and gold. And please, no interruptions. We’ve had way too many already.

Pardon me if I sound like a party pooper, but I hope to celebrate Halloween a little differently than I have in the past.

Without a mask.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @Faceto_Gannett.