This being the first time I had ever covered football in any capacity, I found myself getting caught up in the moment a lot. For that first instance to be inside Ohio Stadium as a professional, it was something quite unforgettable.
Though the 105,000 seats that the ‘Shoe holds were still there, the lack of capacity that Friday night and Saturday morning were slightly daunting, fully well knowing as a spectator what it must be like to cover a game for a paycheck with a sold-out crowd in a press box with a hundred individuals covering the game instead of the seemingly ten there that night.
Throughout the nights I toyed with camera settings a lot, wished I had brought another battery, spent too much time focusing on photographs instead of the job I had been assigned to do … but I had fun.
I took entirely too many pictures, I grew in confidence strides than what I had at the start of the games. I saw a state championship winning touchdown, capturing the score and the reaction of the home fans, the first real gratification that I wasn’t totally clueless with a camera.
I reflected on the way the runner-ups felt, reminiscing on my younger years and always wondering what it would’ve been like to play here.
I also witnessed the last game in Ohio Stadium for two former Ohio State commits, albeit sooner than all three of us thought.
Danny Clark, a southpaw quarterback from Massillon and then Akron, was all the buzz of Ohio State recruiting for a couple years before Urban Meyer took another quarterback — Tate Martell — and Clark saw the silver-lining, de-comitting before deciding on the University of Kentucky.
Still brandishing a “Block-O” tattoo on his throwing arm, it was hard not to wonder what Clark would’ve been like playing there on Saturdays. Though the Ohio State offense didn’t really conform to Clark’s strengths, he threw a pretty and a pinpoint accurate ball that night and you knew that he was destined for major college football.
Alongside him was running back Todd Sibley, the evident MVP of the final for Hoban and the second de-commit from Ohio State. Clark threw the ball only nine times, and with Sibley carrying them the rest of the way against Trotwood-Madison, the score was never really close.
Sibley had been committed to Ohio State shorter than Clark, but still a lengthy stretch of time as recruiting goes. Sibley according to reports was going to be grayshirted, forced to delay his enrollment until the spring of his freshman year. He found a new home at the University of Pittsburgh, replacing a juggernaut in former Panther and now Pittsburgh Steeler James Connor.
The silver-lining of the relationship between Clark and Sibley was an interesting one. Sibley had been there from the start, joined later by Clark at Hoban with more of an opportunity to win a state title — they won two together in their time at Hoban — but also a chance for two teenagers to develop a relationship in the backfield that would springboard them to what I’m sure they thought would be success on Saturdays in the ‘Shoe.
Regardless de-commitments and different destinations couldn’t bind the joy of winning a state title.
Capturing this journey along the way, a couple nights in December was something unforgettable, I doubt any experience like this truly is.
For someone like Danny Clark, who has gone through a wide range of emotions along his journey to college football, I think in some respects we share the same opinion. In the last time he spoke to the media at Ohio Stadium, when asked by me about what he’d take away from the last time he’d play within these walls, Clark answered with sincerity.
“It don’t matter where we’re playing. It don’t matter if we’re playing here (Ohio Stadium), Kent State or if we’re playing at Alabama,” he said. “We’re here to win with our teammates and we’re blessed by God that we got to have a great victory today. It meant the world to us. It don’t matter where we’re playing. We’re out here to win with our brothers, and it was a great night.
“God was on our side, we were executing, and doing what we needed to do. It doesn’t matter where we were playing.”
For more from the state championships, check out a gallery here.