Hudson Recalls OVAC, Bellaire Football Times
WHEELING — Football can evoke memories. Even a half-century later.
Dave Hudson can remember his gridiron playing days just like they were yesterday. Those playing days for the former Bellaire High star, however, ended nearly 50 years ago.
Hudson was one of the guests when the OVAC invited back players from the 1968 all-star classic. The 68-year-old, who looks like he could still be an effective gridder, recalls that Ohio won that contest while also oozing out vivid highlights from his brilliant career with the Big Reds, one in which earned him a grid scholarship to WVU.
While touching base on the OVAC game, Hudson couldn’t resist talking about his grid time in the All-American Town.
“I owe everything to Coach (Don) Ault. I wouldn’t have had the success if not for him. He was a great mentor and pushed me in a positive way. Coach Ault was truly concerned about my future, football-wise and after,” Hudson said of his former Bellaire High grid boss. “He had great respect for family and his players. He was like a guidance counselor for me, guiding on what the best courses to take to get into college. I would not have went to college if not for Coach Ault. He just turned 90 last week.
“Ohio State, Marshall and a lot of other schools were recruiting me. He steered me toward WVU. Although I blew my knee out early on at WVU, the school did a great deal for me. I would not have ended up as vice-president of one of the largest underground coal companies (Consol) in the nation if not for Coach Ault and WVU. He left (Bellaire High) after our junior year and went to Marshall. That Big Reds’ team was one of the greatest in Ohio Valley history. We went 9-1, blowing a late-game lead to Washington (Pa.) in the final two minutes.”
Hudson, a sledgehammer of a fullback and punishing linebacker, and his Big Reds teammates welcomed Rudy Sharkey his senior season. It was a far cry from the Ault era.
Bellaire won just two games in Sharkey’s maiden campaign, defeating Moundsville and Martins Ferry. Hudson relishes the fact that he never lost to the arch-rival Purple Riders. Despite Bellaire’s lowly record, Hudson was selected to play in the OVAC All-Star Game.
“We won the OVAC game 6-0. We thought going in we were just going to run all over them. In addition to me in the backfield we had Donnie Young of Wintersville and Dan Hannahs of Barnesville,” Hudson said. “I carried three times right off the bat for a first down and that was about it for my carries. West Virginia played us tough. The OVAC game was a great, great experience.
“Coming back to this (OVAC 50-year reunion luncheon) brings back a lot of great memories. This is a real nice event. It is really special seeing some of those guys I played with and against in the game. Our practices were held at Bellaire. Harold Mercer of Barnesville and Jake Olsavsky of Brilliant were our coaches.”
Hudson, who had two other brothers play D-I football, was joined by Big Reds’ teammate Tom Parr, a 200-pound tackle, in the OVAC game.
As fate would have it, Hudson never got to truly display his grid greatness at WVU. He had five major surgeries while one, a knee replacement, nearly killed him due to an infection. Nonetheless, he considers WVU a positive experience.
“I played two years for Bobby Bowden. He was a great coach and great guy,” Hudson said. “After I hurt my knee you could clock my 40 time with a calendar. But WVU played a big role in my career success.”
OVAC GRID NOTES
During the OVAC 50-year reunion luncheon, Executive-Secretary Tom Rataiczak delivered some fascinating tidbits from the year 1968.
∫ NCAA football champs: Ohio State
∫ NCAA basketball champs: UCLA
∫ Super Bowl champs: Green Bay Packers
∫ NBA champs: Boston Celtics
∫ MLB champions: Detroit Tigers
∫ Average price of a new home: $14,000
∫ Average income: $7,800
∫ Average price of a gallon of gas: 34 cents
∫ Average price of a new car: $2,822.
∫ Song of Year: Hey Jude by The Beatles
∫ Austin Good of Shadyside — a 2014 Linsly graduate — was recently named to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference first-team All-Academic squad after completing a successful four-year academic and athletic career at Hilbert College in Hamburg N.Y. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was a four-year lacrosse standout, graduating with a 3.69 GPA earning a degree in criminal justice with a minor in Forensic Science/CSI/Leadership. He was a two-time academic all-conference member, a three-time North Eastern Athletic Conference academic scholar-athlete. Good became just the third Hilbert student-athlete to be named four-time NEAC Scholar-Athlete recipient. He recently completed his college career at Hilbert, receiving the 2018 McGrath Award. The McGrath Award is presented annually to the highest GPA male and female athlete upon graduation at Hilbert. Good is the son of Dianne and Ed Good of Shadyside.
∫ Tiger Woods again served notice that he is on the threshold of winning a major. His fourth-round surge at the British Open came up just a few strokes shy. Tiger is good for a handful of more major titles. His back is holding up and his mojo is returning.
∫ Dave Bruney’s retirement from the Martins Ferry sidelines was celebrated in grand fashion last Saturday night. Dave’s lovely wife Cheryl staged a surprise party for the coaching icon at Belmont Hills Country Club that night. The event totaled some 100 of Bruney’s former assistant coaches, players and friends. Bruney delivered some emotionally-spiced remarks.
∫ The previous two Sundays I have penned columns on Wheeling Jesuit University’s two new hoop coaches. Mike Llanas is the women’s coach while John Peckinpaugh in the new men’s mentor. Both are personable and outgoing individuals with basketball savvy. Given time, I see both being successful in Cardinal Land.
∫ The Cleveland Cavaliers made a wise move in extending Kevin Love’s contract. Love is still the premier power forward in the Eastern Conference, ensuring the Cavs will not be a punching bag without LeBron James.
∫ Robert Price is the new athletics director at Paden City High. He takes over for David Riggle who held the post for just one year. Price is a Burch High grad and former U.S. Marine.
∫ I am not a Dallas Cowboys’ fan by any means. But I do like team owner Jerry Jones mandating that his players come out of the locker room for the playing of the national anthem and pay tribute to old Glory in proper fashion.
∫ The Betty Zane Days 5K will be staged Wednesday in Martins Ferry beginning at 7 p.m. Race day registration starts at 5:30 p.m. Pre-race day registration is $15 while race-day signup is $20. Those interested in signing up early should send their entries with name, mailing address, age and shirt size to Bob Walton at 71331 Grel Arms Drive, Martins Ferry, Ohio 43935. Proceeds benefit the Martins Ferry High National Honor Society.
∫ Meadowbrook boys’ hoops coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda is scheduled to have major back surgery this week. Keep him in your prayers. The affable mentor is coming off a season in which he led the Colts to another OVAC championship while gaining a berth in the Division II state tourney.
Bubba Kapral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org