MORGANTOWN — West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins tells tales of his younger days in his home town, Port Washington, Ohio, and depicts it as something akin to Mayberry — minus Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea and Gomer.
He notes that Port Washington, Ohio, 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.
Sarahsville sits just 45.7 milles south of Port Washington down I-77. To Sills, Port Washington and its population of 569 is a metropolis compared to the 166 people who are “crammed” into the 0.15 square miles that make up the village of Sarahsville.
“We do have two stop signs,” Sills said, “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 Sills’ football upbringing was a bit “early American”. He went to Meadowbrook High in Byesville, Ohio, and played on a team with about 50 players as the smallest school in Division 4 (Ohio has Divisions 1-7, with Division 1 being the biggest).
“In high school, we didn’t have an offensive line coach,” said Sills, who — this year — is expected to play tackle with Colton McKivitz to anchoring the Mountaineers’ offensive line. “Our head coach coached just about every position through my junior year. 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.”
Mostly, Sarahsville was flat farm land with nearby Senecaville Lake and some good woods for hunting. Sills would almost rather hunt than block an Oklahoma linebacker. However, as part of the team bonding process that head coach Neal Brown has emphasized to bring his team together, this past spring Sills brought his new quarterback, Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall, home to do some turkey hunting.
Now Kendall is from Waxhaw, North Carolina, which is a downright big city compared to Sarahsville, with about 15,000 people about 30 miles south of Charlotte. It, too, is good hunting country, which makes Kendall pretty good with a shotgun, but not so good at calling turkeys.
“It was fun. Comical,” said Sills of the experience.
He also admitted 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,” Sills said. “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 Kendall calls plays better than he calls turkeys.
Last year, Sills had offensive tackle McKivitz introduce him to duck hunting — something Sills had never done before. Now, McKivitz’s home town 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 just outside 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 went duck hunting with McKivitz.
But come summer, when he has the chance, Sills heads to Senecaville Lake, where he keeps his speed boat. The boat came with a 300-horsepower Ford motor and it has a lot of get up and go, which made Sills’ father a little wary.
Not that it mattered. Sills had already cleared it with his mother.
“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,” Sills explained.
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.
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,” Sills 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.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.