Features

‘HELL IS REAL,’ and so is FC Cincinnati’s threat to Columbus

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provided by FC Cincinnati
This story originally ran for Four Four Two on June 15, 2017

CINCINNATI — When Jimmy Harston erected a massive “HELL IS REAL” sign alongside Interstate-71 over 25 years ago, his intentions were to warn every passerby of eternal doom.

Ohio soccer supporters interpreted it differently. (continue reading here)

Soft-spoken Polak stars for FC Cincy against Toronto

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provided by FC Cincinnati
This story originally ran for Major League Soccer on May 27, 2017

Tyler Polak is not used to being the center of attention. So when he stood in front of the media in his first career press conference, it was almost ironic that he was asked to speak louder.

But that’s what Polak has specialized in as Futbol Club Cincinnati’s left-back: a quiet, consistent player, who never brings accolades upon himself.

However, there was no way getting around it Saturday night. (continue reading here)

 

Jason Carter maturing as fast as Ohio needs

This story originally ran in The Post on Feb. 28, 2017.

In his first and only collegiate postgame interview, Sam Frayer wanted to say something that would be remembered.

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photo taken by Carl Fonticella

Frayer, a walk-on who has scored one point this season, said Jason Carter, who’d just scored 16 points in his first 15 minutes in The Convo, would be a future Mid-American Conference Player of the Year.

When he heard the claim, coach Saul Phillips shook his head and said Frayer should worry about himself.

When Jaaron Simmons, Ohio’s best player, made the same claim three months later, Phillips sat upright and spoke sternly. (continue reading here)

 

 

 

Many rivers to cross: Maurice Ndour’s four-continent quest to the NBA

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photo taken by Dave Saffran/MSG Photos
This story originally ran in The Post on Nov. 3, 2016

CLEVELAND — The locker room was gloomy following a 117-88 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Inside, the New York Knicks spoke softly and subdued.

Except for Maurice Ndour.

As teammates sulked in towels and sweatpants, Ndour donned a slim dark suit, his dreadlocks tied tightly and his face cemented in a smile.

“I’m doin’ great, baby,” he said.

Despite his teammates’ frustration, Ndour was radiant, soaking in his first NBA appearance — even if he didn’t play — making him the first former Ohio Bobcat on an NBA regular season roster since 2005. (continue reading here)

 

 

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photo taken by Matt Starkey

Post Pick: Clay Johnson, Ohio’s biggest student fan

This story originally ran in The Post on Dec. 1, 2016

There are two sides to Clay Johnson.

One side is a junior studying accounting and sports management, the other is an Ohio athletics fanatic.

“That’s just a different Clay,” he said.

Whether he has two identities or not, Johnson is unarguably the biggest Bobcat fan at Ohio University.

Columbus-born, both of his parents and many of his family graduated from Ohio. So naturally, he grew up a fan of the Bobcats.

Disliking Ohio State for as long as he can remember, he went to his first Ohio football and basketball games in 2005 or 2006 — he can’t remember which — but became obsessed.

When it came time to apply for college, an application was sent to only one school.

“It was just a perfect fit,” he said. (continue reading here)

 

 

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photo taken by Michael Johnson

The football baptism of Greg Windham

This story originally ran in The Post on Sept. 5, 2016

Two medicine balls sag from the metal chain-link propping them on a hook. Above the balls reads “ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE” in bold, capitalized ink.

This is Greg Windham’s right bicep — the right bicep of Ohio’s new starting quarterback.

This is right bicep of a man who was once dismissed from the football team. It’s the arm of a man who beat out his teammate when another left the team for health concerns.

Football isn’t a matter of life or death for Windham, but the words etched out on his flesh describe the resurrection of his career. (continue reading here)

 

 

Long-time coordinators are key to Ohio’s championship chances

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photo taken by Matt Starkey
This story originally ran for The Post on Oct. 5, 2016

In a rapidly changing college football landscape, Ohio has stayed consistent in its coaching staff.

Frank Solich, now in his 12th season at Ohio, is the fourth-longest tenured coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision and the longest in the Mid-American Conference.

Tim Albin and Jimmy Burrow, the respective offensive and defensive coordinators, have been with Solich in Athens since 2005 — making Ohio the only program in Football Bowl Subdivision with the same coach and coordinators for more than 10 seasons.

“We can basically finish each other’s sentences,” Albin, who doubles as the running backs coach, said earlier this season.

So if Ohio has the longest tenured coordinators, what’s the reasoning? Have the Bobcats plateaued as a program, or does the faith shown by the Athletic Department prove how successful this regime of coaches has been?

The answer is the latter. (continue reading here)

 

Louie Zervos: Too good for Ohio’s own good

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photo taken by Carl Fonticella
This story originally ran for The Post on Sept. 22, 2016

Louie Zervos can only control Ohio’s field goal production. And through three games, he’s kicked more field goals than anyone in the country.

But there is a problem: Ohio doesn’t want to kick field goals.

It is nothing personal against Zervos, coach Frank Solich just wants to score more points. And for every field goal Zervos has kicked — he is 13-of-14 through three games — those three points could have been replaced by touchdowns.

“You don’t want to kick field goals,” Solich said Saturday, after Zervos made four first-half attempts at No. 15 Tennessee. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the business that wants to kick field goals.” (continue reading here)

 

Ohio’s professional student-athlete

This story originally ran in The Post on April 5, 2015

Marc Krauss is keeping his promise.

After three years in Athens, where he became one of Ohio’s best baseball players in program history, he opted for a career in Major League Baseball. That was back in 2009.

Now, he’s a professional athlete, a student, a husband and a father.

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photo taken by Lauren Bacho

Krauss, a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization, participated in spring training with the squad but was reassigned to the minor leagues this weekend before teams finalize their opening day rosters.

In addition to playing professionally, Krauss has opted to finish his journalism degree — even if he’s thousands of miles away from Scripps Hall.

“It was a promise I made to my mom when I signed,” Krauss said. (continue reading here)

FC Cincinnati: the third-tier US soccer team pulling in 20,000 fans a game 

This story previously ran in The Guardian on May 16, 2016.

When Bjorn Knudsen talks, the whiskers from his eyebrows and beard poke out of his orange, full-body suit. When Knudsen walks, his father, Chip, holds him by his shoulders, helping him keep balance and walk straight.

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picture provided by FC Cincinnati

“No curb,” Chip says when they cross a street, making sure Bjorn doesn’t stumble.

Bjorn, with a massive bass drum strapped to his chest, begins beating the drum while others are chanting. “How can you see the drum?” someone shouts.

Bjorn, Chip and 150 others are marching just under a mile from Mecklenburg Gardens, a quaint corner bar, toward Nippert Stadium — the home to what’s quickly becoming America’s most fascinating new club. (continue reading here)

FC Cincinnati to host Premier League team in July

This story previously ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on May 19, 2016

Cincinnati will host a Premier League club in July and the story starts around a beer-filled tabletop in Brooklyn, New York.

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photo courtesy of FC Cincinnati

Steve Parish tossed a duffel bag on a tabletop and zipped it open, revealing memorabilia. Parish, one of Crystal Palace Football Club’s owners, came to Brooklyn in November 2015 for BlazerCon, the world’s largest soccer convention.

Parish stood at the tabletop drinking beers with Palace fans and handing out club merchandise to promote his squad to fans across the pond. He admired the American enthusiasm for soccer, and wanted supporters to know they’re appreciated.

The correlation between his promotional aspirations and the ascendancy of Futbol Club Cincinnati is so strong, he’s bringing his club to Nippert Stadium this summer. (continue reading here)