‘Road trip’ a chance to see some old friends

One of the great joys of working in sports for myself is the start of fall practices for area high school and college teams.

It begins a journey for the squads, as new faces are greeted by high expectations and everyone is optimistic about a successful season.

While traveling around the area the last couple of weeks collecting information and pictures for the Gridiron Guide, which will appear in Thursday’s editions of The Inter-Mountain, I had the opportunity to visit with several coaches, players and some familiar faces, including Tucker County coaching icon Tom Gutshall, who was on hand for the Mountain Lions’ football practice.

After talking with Tucker County football coach A.J. Rapp about his team for a bit, I made my way down the mountain to Tucker Valley Middle School, where former TCHS player Nathaniel Goldstein is now the head coach.

The next stop was Buckhannon-Upshur High School in the late afternoon. Duane Stoeckle, one of the classiest coaches in the state, was working his Buccaneers through some spirited drills. Stoeckle is hoping to guide his squad back into the playoffs after several key injuries played a part in B-U missing the postseason dance in 2017.

A visit to historic Wimer Field was next on the agenda for an evening practice. Second-year coach Evan Hott’s Tiger squad nearly earned a spot in the Class AA playoffs last season, but a couple of close losses kept EHS out of a crowded and talented double-A field.

I was hoping to see former EHS coach Greg Hott at practice, but Evan believed he was home on the couch enjoying retirement, which is certainly well-deserved for the elder Coach Hott, who served as the Tiger head mentor and as an assistant for nearly 30 years.

I believe, though, he was watching some type of game film from several seasons ago, pencil in hand jotting down some notes.

This was my first visit to an EHS practice, however, since Pete Gray tragically passed away in 2016.

I have fond memories of my past chats with Pete during my years at The Inter-Mountain when he was not only the school’s trainer but a great friend to everyone in the program and the community.

Along with Pete’s top-notch scouting reports, our discussions would turn to how our families were doing or the days of how we battled one another during pick-up basketball games when we were much younger.

Baseball would be included in the chat with Pete, a Yankee fan, or myself, who had a rooting interest in the Red Sox.

As you grow older, it’s important to cherish the relationships and friends you have made over the years.

My recent “road trip” afforded me the chance to do just that so, and with the high school and college seasons getting underway, I’m sure more opportunities will arise.

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