Homecoming Two Months Later

I had made the drive many times before. I always started on route 271 and took it until it merged and became route 71 South. The freeway was still the same as was the landmarks along the way.

The drive always took two hours or slightly longer. Sometimes accidents or construction would slow it down but it was always a routine trip. Sometimes ice and rain would fill the freeway but the drive was always the same.

I had to make this drive for four years when going to school at Otterbein. I mainly stayed on campus but would take the time to make the trek back and forth between Westerville, OH (where Otterbein is located) and Solon during my college years.

I haven’t made the drive as much since graduating in June of 2008. I moved back to Northeast Ohio and have made my living in the city I grew up in. Westerville always felt like a second home I couldn’t go to as much when I moved back to Northeast Ohio.

When I moved back, I always wondered if my high school alma mater, Solon, would ever meet and play the Westerville high schools in the area. I knew it would probably have to be in the playoffs or a special occasion. With the two cities two hours apart, it was unlikely a regular season matchup for any sport was going to be feasible.

Sure enough, five years after I graduated from Otterbein and moved back home, Solon was scheduled to play Westerville Central in the first round of the football playoffs. The drive was going to be two hours and I was not going to miss seeing a Solon team I grew up with play in a city I fell in love with as an undergraduate.

The drive was the same as before and I stopped Otterbein’s campus prior the matchup between Solon and Westerville Central. I smiled as I pulled up into the parking lot of Memorial Stadium on Otterbein’s campus and decided to go in for the final minutes of the game.

I made my way to the pressbox and found Mark Pfeiffer from WOCC-TV (Otterbein and Westerville’s TV station), PA announcer Bob Kennedy and I eventually ran into Otterbein equipment manager Skip Ford. It was great seeing these familiar faces and catching up as Otterbein defeated Marietta in the final minutes of their game. I had seen and announced games in this stadium before and smiled as I watched the final seconds tick off the clock.

When the game was over, I took my iPhone with me and started taking pictures of the painted rock across the street from Mayne Hall, one of the dorms, and Towers, one of the oldest structures on campus. I started to tear up when thinking of the incredible memories and friendships I had made while a student here and how grateful I was go come back.

After eating dinner at Old Bag of Nails off State Street, I grabbed a Snickers latte from Heavenly Cup and headed over to Westerville Central’s stadium. As I pulled up, I started to recall how I had the opportunity to tape, call and organize broadcasts there.

The last time I had been in the stadium was my senior year of college. I was weeks away from graduating and I organized one of the very first lacrosse tapings WOCC took on. I recall being excited while driving over to the stadium that night. We were embarking on something the station hadn’t done before and the night ended up being a success. It rained sideways that night but the cold water didn’t dampen the WOCC crew’s spirits that night. We all got in the van afterwards to go home and had smiles on our faces.

The game started and there was someone with a fire pit behind one of the endzones. I hadn’t been to a stadium with a wood burning fire next to it and it was a pleasant smell to have during the game.

When the game started, Solon was able to stop Westerville Central early on but it would not last. By halftime, Westerville Central was up 35-7.

During halftime, the Solon band played their usual set of songs and got a standing ovation from the Westerville Central crowd. It was great to hear that and some of the Westerville Central students started chanting “Encore! Encore!” I found out later on that Otterbein’s Women’s Basketball coach, Connie Richardson, was in attendance and mentioned on Facebook that she thought that band was awesome.

A comeback was still possible in the second half but Solon couldn’t not get a drive together or a defensive stop to make that happen. Solon’s season was slowly coming to an end.

During breaks in action, I checked my Facebook page for updates and noticed comments and likes on the pictures I posted from campus. One of the comments said, “Welcome Home” and it made me feel good inside.

The final seconds ticked off the clock and Solon’s season was over with a 55-7 loss to Westerville Central. It was emotional the season was over. This had been a fun season for me as I had opportunities to take pictures and be in the broadcast booth and it was coming to an end.

I gave my support to the Solon players and coaches and made my way back to the car. I knew I was going back to the hotel but wanted to make a stop first.

I wanted to see Towers lit up at night. I didn’t care it was colder and that it was getting late. I wanted to see one of the most vibrant settings on campus lit up at night once again.

I pulled into the parking lot next to Cowan Hall, one of the theaters on campus, and took my camera out with me. I wanted to take some shots of it being lit up at night. This campus had become my second home and I wanted to see it one last time before heading over to the hotel for the night and heading home Sunday.

Solon’s season ended with a loss but I have a lot to be grateful for. I had an opportunity to be apart of a season that was meaningful and memorable to me. I want to make sure I thank the following people:

Jim McQuiade (head coach’s son)

Head Coach Jim McQuaide and his staff

Joe Regano

Debbie Bacon

Karla Crenshaw

Anthony Pokorny

Eric McClellanDSC_0076

Tracy Timonere

Hallie Rubins

Connie Richardson

Stephanie Poepplelmann

Aaron Angel

Joe Ferencie and the SETV Crew

Chuck Chokenea

Bill McCroskey

I owe all of you a big thank you for your support this season. The games are done this season but I will always be grateful for the support you have provided me.

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~ by jeffrsabo on November 10, 2013.

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