Monday, November 22, 2010

Thank you Rob Lytle

My obsession with Fremont Ross football began on a long ago night at Harmon Stadium. The year was 1969 and the Little Giants were in a rebuilding phase under head coach Chuck Shuff. Ross had fallen on hard times after legendary head coach Mal Mackey had retired after the 1966 season. Shuff took on the job of rebuilding the Little Giants in 1968 after a very brief one year stint with John Behling as the head man in 1967. That October night in '69 saw the Little Giants get one of only two wins that year 24-22 over Mansfield Senior.

I was hooked. I wanted to go to every game and soon enough that would become reality. Everyone I knew, family and friends, talked about the Little Giants. In the next few years names like Shuff, Liggins, Lopez, Lindsay, Burkett, Brudzinski and yes Lytle, were what folks talked about.

Rob Lytle was the first truely great football player I had the opportunity to watch. He and Bob Brudzinski headlined a great 1972 Ross football team that went 9-1, and in this fans opinion was one of the best Little Giant squads I have seen, and still is to this day. Watching Rob run through and around opposing teams defenses was a thing of beauty. Watching him lead his Little Giant teams to big wins over Sandusky was a special treat.

When Rob moved on to the University of Michigan, we Fremonters had even more reason to gloat. That great player who we had the opportunity to watch for three years was now showing the entire country his talents. He came in third in the Heisman voting his Senior year in Ann Arbor and in this totally biased fans opinion should have won the trophy.

Injuries hampered Rob during his years as a professional player with the Denver Broncos but still watching him play on Sunday afternoons was special. He was one of two Fremonters, two All-Americans who had moved onto the professional ranks. Little Giant fans had reason to be proud.

What Rob did after his time in the NFL was even more special. You see, he came home. How many guys who "make it big" leave their high school hometowns in their past? How many of them move on to bigger and better things? Well for Rob Lytle, the bigger and better thing was coming home to Fremont.

Rob came home and contributed to the life of this community. He and Tracey became involved with Fremont. They worked with the schools, the kids, and more. They were, and are role models for what great community citizens should be. And all the while they were busy raising a family.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tracey, Kelly, Erin and the entire Lytle family at this very difficult time. We hope they know that this community is grateful for being able to share the life and times of Rob Lytle with them. Thank you for that opportunity. And thank you Rob. You will never be forgotten.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 football final thoughts


During the spring and summer months leading up to this season there were some questions about what the 2010 campaign would bring.

Would the Little Giants be able to overcome the off field, personality, and "me" issue that were behind the collapse of the 2009 season?

Would this years senior class be true leaders?

Would the Little Giants finish better than .500?

Was there any way in heck this team could make the playoffs?

What we fans couldn't know, and wouldn't know until the season got underway, the players already knew. Those issues that bedeviled the 2009 season were dead and buried. This team, these kids, wanted to win, wanted a conference title and were hell bent on making the playoffs. Their mantra for this season mocked the fans. 2-8 WHAT.. became their battle cry. That was a saying that I am more than happy to have waved in my face this November.

My first opportunity to catch the 2010 edition of the Little Giants was in the preseason scrimmage against Toledo Waite. As I sat there watching the purple and white roll over the Indians 35-0 in two quarters of football I thought to myself, "maybe this year won't be so bad after all".

The opener against Toledo Start had me thinking that this team would need to open it up more to beat the big boys. Sure we won, but "was this it?". We found out in week two that no way, no how was what we saw at Spartan Stadium "it". Coach Kidwell and his Little Giants stepped it up bigtime and knocked off a powerful team in future TRAC member Toledo Whitmer.

That win over Whitmer was a statement. Unfortunately it went to the heads of many. Fans and players were certain that the following weeks opponent from Tiffin Columbian would be no match for the Little Giants. If we beat Whitmer, a team that handled the Tornadoes 35-6 in week one, imagine what we were going to do to Columbian. "Tiffin Columbian better be worried" was a thread posted on the forum. Sitting at Frost-Kalnow before the opening kickoff I could hear Ross fans saying much the same thing. Problem was, no one passed that message along to Tiffin. The Tornadoes came into the game fired up and manhandled an overconfident squad of Fremonters. A lesson was learned that night. Just because you beat team A who beat team B, does not mean you too will beat team B.

Along came week four and we traveled to Metro Cleveland for our first and only road game against Benedictine. The Bengals, a team that the Little Giants had little success against in 16 previous meetings, had not started the season well. We had seen this before however, and many Fremonters were worried that the "Benny block" would once again strike. As we sat in beautiful Bearcat Stadium in Bedford on a gorgeous fall night it quickly became evident that the hold Benedictine had over Ross was coming to an end. The Little Giants rolled out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back in burying the Bengals and the "Benny block" by a 47-7 score.

Ross was 4-1 as the final GBC season began with a road trip to our old rivals in Findlay. With three backs running wild over the Trojans the Little Giants held off a late Findlay charge to get some revenge by a 43-35 score and a leg up in the GBC race.

Tough wins over Marion Harding, Napoleon and Lima Senior followed keeping the Little Giants atop the Greater Buckeye. At 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the GBC Ross was on the doorstep of winning the final GBC title outright and making the playoffs. Only one team, one thing, stood in our way...Sandusky. The Blue Streaks were having their best season in some years and came into the Don a 3-1 in the conference, 6-3 overall. A Blue Streak win would give them a share of the league crown. A playoff berth, their first since 1990, was a possibility as well.

The week leading up to the 105th meeting between the two old rivals saw the most excitement for the series in some time in both communities. Rallys and bonfires took place before the game in both Fremont and Sandusky. The chatter on the Ross forum, and others, was quite colorful and energetic. The old fires of the great old rivalry were being rekindled and fans from both schools looked forward to the game on Friday night.

The largest crowd to witness a Ross-Sandusky game in years filled Don Paul Stadium on October 29th. It was good to see so many folks in blue and white on the visitors side. The turnout by Sandusky was matched by a large and vocal home crowd that was loud the entire game. In the end the Little Giants got revenge on the Blue Streaks for 2009. Ross won 21-7 and took the final Greater Buckeye Conference title outright. Both teams qualified for the postseason.

The Little Giants fell to Toledo St. Johns in the first round of the postseason despite a furious second half comeback attempt. I was so proud of the huge turnout of Fremont Ross fans in numbers and voice at Doyt Perry Stadium. Our first win in the playoffs since 1983 will have to wait for another year. It will come.

This 2010 season could not have been possible without the great leadership of a Senior class that was determined to wipe away the memories 2009. They came together, united, and wiped away the "me first" attitude that was our downfall in '09.

What will 2011 bring? Plenty of excitement that is for sure. Our first year in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. A week one contest at Sandusky. A team with lots of returning talent. The future of Fremont Ross football looks bright. We have a talented, committed coach, assistants, an involved community and fan base. Let's build on the lessons learned before this 2010 campaign and use them to make 2011 even better.

To the team, coaches and all involved in making 2010 so successful. THANK YOU. We fans appreciate your hard work and effort. To the Seniors who helped make 2010 what is was, GOOD LUCK. To the kids coming back...WORK HARD, LIFT HARD, GET READY FOR 2011. We'll be there to support you.

GO ROSS...Now and always!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday morning thoughts...11/7/10


That sums it up when it comes to last nights 45-35 playoff loss to Toledo St. Johns. Good teams take advantage of mistakes and that is what the Titans did last night in the first half. Our Little Giants dug themselves into a hole too deep and we simply could not crawl out of it.

Make no mistake, this team tried with all the heart and grit that they could muster. The Little Giants never gave up and fought back pulling to within striking distance of the Jesuits, but it was not to be. 39-29 and 45-35 deficits were as close as we could get. I just keep thinking if we had made that two point conversion after pulling to within 45-35 and it was 45-37 then maybe, just maybe..... But then if we had not dug ourselves into a hole too deep in the first half all the "maybe" , and "what if" talk would be for naught as we would be playing in week 12.

My player of the game would have to be young Tyler Wolf. That young man carried his team on his back in the second half. Tyler tried hard to rebound from the first half mistakes to bring his team back. The young man would not quit. Even when he went down and appeared to limp off the field he would not be stopped. After one play on the sidelines he was back on the field fighting hard to bring his team back. We Little Giant fans are fortunate that this young man will be leading our team for the next two years. But he is not alone. Fremont Ross has a load of talent coming back and coming up. We will be ready for the TRAC battles to come.

But last night was not just Tyler Wolf. The entire team fought hard. No one gave up, no one gave in. Brown, Reffner, Stout, Miranda, Moreno, Starks, Trautwein, McDonald, and more. They ALL fought hard all night long. You could see it on the sidelines. These Little Giants did not want their season to end. They did not get down, they did not give up, but the hole which we dug ourselves into was just a little too deep to get out of.

I am not one to question the officials. But there were some calls and noncalls last night that made me shake my head. Some fans sitting around me were a bit more vocal in their opinions on the officiating. If I were St. Johns head coach Pearson, I would be having a very frank discussion with one particular player about his attitude. Talk about the "spoiled rich kid" stereotype.

In our week 10 victory over Sandusky I was impressed by Fremont Ross fans. Well last night at Doyt Perry Stadium the folks in purple and white were simply put..AMAZING. Fremonters came in droves to BG to support the Little Giants. Thousands of Little Giant fans poured into the east side of the Doyt, easily outnumbering the Titan fans who didn't even fill one section of the home side. And just like their team, the Little Giant fans did not get down when we fell behind. Simply put, Fremont Ross has the very best fan base in Northwest Ohio and we prove it every week.

I hesitate to ask this but the question is there. Is there a Fremont Ross playoff hex? We have a tremendous football tradition, no one can deny that. But if we are honest with ourselves something happens when we get into the postseason. What is it?

So this 2010 season is now in the books. Thoughts on the season as a whole will be coming soon. But it is never too early to look to 2011.