A Big Man From A Small Town
West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins tells tales of his younger days in his hometown of Port Washington, Ohio, and he depicts it as something akin to Mayberry minus Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea and Gomer.
He notes that Port Washington, which is in northeast Ohio about an hour’s drive south of Canton, was “a town of about 500 people with two stoplights and six bars.”
Now that’s a small town … unless you happen to be WVU’s offensive guard Josh Sills, who hails from Sarahsville, Ohio, which sits just 45.7 miles south of Port Washington down I-77.
To Sills, Port Washington and its 569 population is a metropolis compared to the 166 people who are “crammed” into the 0.15 square miles that make up the village of Sarahsville.
Sills doesn’t talk about anything so hi-tech as stoplights in his hometown.
“We do have two stop signs,” he says, “and there are a couple of road signs … and, yes, they have some bullet holes in them.”
Gotta be ready for hunting season, you know.
Even his football upbringing was a bit “early American.” He went to Meadowbrook High in Byesville, Ohio, played on a team with about 50 players as the smallest school in Division 4. Ohio has seven divisions with Division 1 being the biggest, but that was saved mostly for the teams for Cleveland, Cincinnati and nearby Columbus.
“In high school, we didn’t have an offensive line coach. Our head coach coached just about every position through my junior year,” said Sills, who this year is expected, along with tackle Colton McKivitzs to anchor coach Neal Brown’s first offensive line.
“Then the senior year, it was kind of on the seniors. We’d do drills I’d learned in camps or that the other kids learned along the way,” he explained.
Mostly it was flat farmland in the area with nearby Senecaville Lake and some good woods for hunting.
Sills would almost rather hunt than block an Oklahoma linebacker, and as part of the team bonding process that Brown has emphasized to bring his team together this past spring, he brought his new quarterback, the Oklahoma transfer, Austin Kendall, home to do some turkey hunting.
Now Kendall is from Waxhaw, North Carolina, a downright big city compared to Sarahsville, with about 15,000 people about 30 miles south of Charlotte.
It, too, is good hunting country.
Kendall is pretty good with a shotgun, but let’s just say if you were going to count on him calling your Thanksgiving turkey, better cook burgers.
“It was fun … comical,” Sills allowed.
Sills also allowed that turkey hunting up in Ohio wasn’t all that good this year.
“A couple of turkeys would cooperate and the next four or five wouldn’t,” he noted. “You’d wake up one morning and it’s like, ‘Oh, yes, perfect morning, pretty warm, pretty quiet,’ and you wouldn’t hear a turkey gobble.
“Then you’d go out the next day and it would be pouring rain, 40 degrees, and they’d gobble all day … hit or miss.”
Knowing that, he decided to check Kendall’s ability to call a turkey in the truck on the way out.
“I told him he was done,” Sills said.
Just how bad was it?
“I don’t know, man,” Sills said. “It wasn’t like anything around here.”
Sills is just hoping he calls plays better than he calls turkeys.
Last year, Sills had offensive tackle McKivitz introduce him to duck hunting, something he’s never done. Now McKivitz’s hometown makes Sills’ Sarahsville look like a sprawling New York City.
Sarahsville at least carries a “village” designation in Ohio while McKivitz’s Jacobsburg, Ohio, is unincorporated and sits not far from Wheeling.
“He’s pretty good and kind of got me into that,” said Sills, who didn’t have a shotgun of his own until he did the duck hunting with McKivitz.
But come summer, when he has the chance, Sills heads to Senecaville Lake, where he keeps his speedboat.
The boat came with a 300-horsepower Ford motor, and it has a lot of get up and go, which had Sills’ father a little leery of him getting it.
Not that it mattered. He’d already cleared it with his mother first.
“Dad just kind of accepts the fact that maybe he will say no and mom will say yes and then I’m good, or they’ll both say no or they will say they will think about it knowing I’m still going to do it,” Josh explained, whose parents are John and Kim Sills.
The boat’s name? Don’t ask.
It came with the boat when he bought it.
“The sticker was already on there before I got it,” he said. “It’s stuck to the windshield, so I can’t get it off to take it off. The funny thing was I got it from a guy who was like 65. We got out of the car and looked at it, and he immediately apologized to my mom as soon as we saw it.”
So, this holiday week, expect to see Sills towing some buddies on water skis if you happen to be up at Senecaville Lake celebrating the Fourth of July.