Members of the Hiland community gathered together for the seventh annual Perry Reese Jr. Memorial tip-off event held at the Carlisle Inn in Walnut Creek last weekend. After a dinner was enjoyed by guests and members of both the Hiland Varsity Boys and Girls, each player was recognized.
Originally, it was planned to have Don Hertler Jr., head football coach at Hoover High and friend of the late Reese speak at the event. Unfortunately for the crowd, but fortunately for Hertler, the Hoover Vikings were playing in the Division I elite eight in Parma.
After learning of the conflict, according to master of ceremonies Mark Lonsinger, "He refused to be uninvited and prepared a speech that we will play tonight. The best thing is that if he gets long winded, we can zap. Okay, so we won't really do that."
Hertler graduated from North Canton Hoover in 1981 and during his high school career earned eight varsity letters. He attended Ashland University where he was able to obtain a teaching degree. His first coaching job was at Conotton Valley High School where he was the head football coach as well as many other related positions.
Hertler came to Garaway High School in 1987 where he coached until 1994 and recorded 66 wins and 15 losses during that time. After leaving Garaway, Hertler joined the Massillon Tigers coaching staff as an offensive coach before returning to his alma mater, Hoover, where his father had coached football for years.
"This has been a magical season for Hoover," Hertler began. "I can't believe it has been 13 years since I left the helm at Garaway. It is such an honor to be able to speak at this event tonight and it is an occasion I didn't want to miss."
Hertler emphasized to the players in attendance that games are won by unselfish teams which exhibit strong senior leadership. "It is heart, skill, attitude and togetherness that wins games," he said.
He recalled meeting the late Perry Reese when he was just 14 years old. "I played on Perry's baseball team when I was 15 and 16 and after the first practice with him I realized he was a great coach. He was stubborn and bull-headed but he cared," Hertler said.
While he admits that over time he lost track of Reese after their initial meeting, he recalled reading the USA Today one day and inside was an article about "Berlin Hiland" and the coach who was transforming its basketball program.
"You know in sports it is all about relationships because wins and losses take care of themselves," Hertler said. "Don't live in the past, learn from the past."
He remembered Reese as someone who was always listening, always learning and went on to classify him as his mentor, someone he looked to for advice. While coaching at Garaway Hertler was able to strengthen his relationship with Reese and often spent time with him at an establishment in Canton to get away from it all.
"What an honor it is that you all do for Perry by having this scholarship in his honor," Hertler said. "Carry on his tradition and work hard. Remember that leadership is not talking, its doing and when you win, stay humble."
Hertler closed with his thoughts on coaching and his belief that students who make it through rough practices, in particular the infamous two-a-days, are being prepared for life. He believes that those who can get motivated to get through those practices can motivate themselves in the future.
The event is one of many that are held throughout the year to benefit the Perry Reese Jr. Scholarship Fund.