Friday, March 31, 2006

Junior High Promises


TD Bound
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
Chuck Hamrick was the star of our eighth grade and freshman football team at Schrop Junior High School—a part of the Springfield Township School District located just beyond the city limits of Akron, Ohio. We ran from the wishbone formation that had an offensive backfield comprised of the school’s swiftest runners. Along with Hamrick at one halfback position, John Polinger took up the other half while Mike Baker ran out of the fullback position. Any one of these three were capable of breaking a play wide open with little effort from the front line.

But Chuck was special. You could sense it in all the coaches that spoke of him. Even the high school coaches were looking forward to his arrival. He was extremely fast and of good size for a freshman. Chuck Hamrick was one of those kids that passed through puberty early and fast. By the time he was a freshman, he had grown long sideburns while the remaining majority of us were in the height of adolescence.

Thanks to Hamrick and our talented backfield, we managed to go undefeated as a freshman team. However, in this same school district, the other junior high school was having a successful season as well, and we heard of their talent just as they, no doubt, heard of ours.

As our co-district rival, naturally we would face the Springhill Junior High Falcons in our last game. As that final game approached, we heard more and more about them. In particular their star halfback named Ray Angerstien—often called “Ray-Tater” or simply “Tater Bug.” I’m unsure as to how that nickname came to be, but Ray had a very unorthodox way of carrying the football and he was deceptionally fast—taking short choppy steps rather than the graceful gate of someone like Chuck Hamrick.

Everyone in the township probably started putting two and two together to predict that the two junior high teams would be a high school varsity team to contend with when our talents combined. That turned out to be true, but that’s another story.

The meeting of the Schrop Junior High Rams and the Spring Hill Junior High Falcons was marred by an unfortunate incident two weeks before the big game, when several members of the Falcon team were involved in some kind of alcohol-related scandal that resulted in the suspension of their most talented players for the upcoming big game. They lost their entire backfield in the suspension and in a desperate attempt, moved some of their biggest lineman to the backfield in hopes of overpowering Schrop. It was a bold and admirable move, but it failed in the end.

And so, no one ever saw the great and anticipated match-up of these two junior high school powerhouses and their talented backfields.

Meanwhile, the football coaches at the high school were looking forward to the arrival of these two freshman teams—in particular Chuck Hamrick who ran for a couple of touchdowns in the season finale. From my perspective, few references were ever made regarding Angerstien, and, if so, it was only after the mentioning of Chuck Hamrick.

And as these stories go, something funny happened during the summer between our freshman and sophomore years. Chuck Hamrick moved to Toledo, Ohio, when his father’s employer relocated. Hamrick was never heard from again. Surely many were surprised as I was to not hear of some powerhouse high school out of Toledo with a fleet-footed running back who was destined to become one of the nation’s top recruited players at the college level. Instead, back at Springfield High School, the Spartans went on to win the league title during our junior and senior year as expected, but instead of Chuck Hamrick, it was the brilliant and talented running of Ray Angerstien who carried the team. Angerstien was also named the player of the year in the greater Akron area along with his first string all-state accolades—truly a great feat in a football-rich state like Ohio. In the end, Angerstien was heavily recruited by every major college team in the country.

And although capable of college play, surprisingly to many and admirable to me, Ray Angerstien chose not to pursue football at the collegiate level.

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