Late in last Friday’s season football finale at Greenville’s Harmon Field, the visiting Sidney Yellow Jackets had tied the host Green Wave at 13-13 with an extra point to follow that could win both the game and the Little Brown Jug traveling trophy. Just as she’d done well over a hundred times during her four year varsity career, Hallie Truesdale stood confidently and delivered a successful conversion kick. This final effort seemed destined to result in a Sidney win and personal storybook ending in her final appearance.
However, it wasn’t to be as the home team answered quickly for a 19-14 escape. Hallie made both of her extra points on this night and ended with only a single miss in 24 attempts on the season. She also connected on one of three field goals.
As I saw her nail that final kick from the Harmon Field sideline, my mind reverted to the summer of 2016 and a visit with Coach Adam Doenges. I was our kicker 50 years ago and have always been interested in seeing my successors do well. The two most recent had been our two best ever in Andre Spillers and Danny Dean. Certainly their success had inspired a young kicker to practice hard, take over, and do a solid job.
I asked who the choice would be, and was stunned with the answer. “We have nobody except a freshman from the girls soccer team,” Doenges began. “She’s accurate but not long. She should be alright. Her name is Hallie Truesdale.”
“How will she respond in front of a few thousand fans on a Friday night?” I inquired to which the coach had a quick answer. “She seems to have the mentality of a baseball relief pitcher. I don’t think it will bother her.”
Hallie’s first game at St. Marys delivered her first varsity point. I saw her a few days later, introduced myself, and offered congratulations. We seemed to connect when I revealed that my first point came from the same spot on the same field some 47 years earlier. I wished her a great career. It’s also the first time I called her by her uniform number of “86” and that has continued.
I then sent a note to her parents so they understood who I was and why I was taking an interest in Sidney’s first female football player. We’ve had many nice visits ever since.
Hallie had a decent rookie season, going 28 for 36 in the “point after” department with no field goal tries. I didn’t foresee, however, that “decent” would be transformed into “outstanding” by the start of the 2017 campaign. What a difference when I saw her kick in a preseason scrimmage after much hard work and specialized coaching. She was stronger with improved timing and enjoyed a solid mesh with holder Ryan Dunham and snapper Ryan Cagle as this trio would spend three dependable years together.
Speaking of timing, the Sidney offense scored at will in the ten win playoff season of 2017 and there were a ton of opportunities for the kicking unit. She responded with 55 of 62 on extra points and one field goal in two tries, highlighted by making all of her extra points on a night we beat archrival Piqua by a single point. 2017 cemented her place in the Yellow Jacket record book. She had done the work and was in the right place at the right time.
Hallie was again solid as a junior in 2018 with 24 of 29 extras and a perfect 4-4 from the field. This is also when she put soccer aside and concentrated on being a full-time football team member. She was all-in from the weight room to the practice field with her teammates and coaches taking notice and exhibiting additional respect toward the gal who’d evolved into “one of the guys.”
When 2019 rolled around Hallie and the two Ryans earned local fame on the cover of the Sidney Daily News Fall Sports Preview with the headline “True’s Grit at Sidney,” a hybrid takeoff from the 1969 John Wayne movie “True Grit” combined with the name “Truesdale.”. There was no real or imagined jinx from this front cover exposure as her extra point accuracy improved to almost 96% while adding a field goal in three attempts.
When she graduates from SHS next May, appropriately at Sidney Memorial Stadium, she’ll have earned nine varsity letters with four in football, two in soccer, and three in basketball. Hallie’s career football stats show 130-151 on points after touchdown (86%) and 6-9 on field goals (67%).
Nice job 86. While I hope you inspire our future kickers, I’m more hopeful that you’ll inspire many young people of both genders to travel the proverbial “road less chosen” to seek and attain excellence. You ventured outside the norm and nailed it.
As I sit at my computer finishing this story with a smile on my face, I can still hear the distant voice of Coach Adam Doenges informing me that “a freshman from the girls soccer team will be our kicker” in 2016.
Turned out pretty well, didn’t it?
Next week: Memories of the Bengals at Nippert Stadium.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross authored a book on the first century of Sidney High School football that is available at the Ross Historical Center in downtown Sidney.