“This is something we have needed for a long time. Small towns don’t get the recognition they deserve and it’s even worse for small town kids. This is a big deal for our community.”
Community members and business owners in Hoagland and Monroeville and the surrounding areas have joined together to partner with WZBD 92.7 FM to bring Heritage High School’s athletes and teams into the fold, both on the air and on the web.
“It’s a natural fit,” says WZBD station owner Rob Weaver, who also manages the radio station in Portland (WPGW), covering mostly Jay County athletics. “Heritage’s standing in the Allen County Athletic Conference and long tradition with Bellmont in team sports makes bringing them into the fold a logical choice.”
Heath Guenin, who runs Madison Cabinets in Hoagland’s Industrial Park, jumped at the opportunity to associate his business with WZBD’s reputation for top-notch high school sports coverage.
“People here are passionate about their sports teams, but we have always struggled to get the attention of the big Fort Wayne stations,” Guenin said. “People are going to embrace this and it is going to be a great partnership.”
Officials from both the Hoagland Area Advancement Association and the Monroeville Chamber of Commerce have thrown their weight and support behind the idea as well.
One of the biggest supporters of the idea has been Hall of Fame baseball coach Dean Lehrman, who is now in his 45th year in charge of the Heritage baseball team.
“The radio station in my shop is soldered to WZBD, I never change the channel,” Lehrman said this week. His coaching staff has been working behind the scenes with the sports staff at the station, sharing rosters, stats and schedules ahead of Friday’s announcement. “I have been a long-time listener of the ‘Z-team’ and as a life-long Cubs fan, I could not be more excited about this project and I am extremely thankful to be included.”
Another supporter of the project is Dick Wyss, long-time owner of Hoagland Pizza & Pub in downtown Hoagland. Wyss’s restaurant is filled with memorabilia from great Heritage teams of the past, along with a few items from the old Hoagland High School. His signature pizza, “The Wildcatter”, is named after the school’s mascot.
“We’ve got to do something to keep our school and our towns relevant,” said Wyss last week. “We have to keep the next generation of kids here.”
Wyss spoke of his desire to expand his restaurant and keep people coming to Hoagland, working with the next generation of his family to keep what has become an institution in the small town going.
Hoagland Pizza & Pub has already teamed up with the station as part of the Great Gas & Grub Giveaway, where they will be the featured restaurant on May 12th. Winners in the contest will receive a $5 gift certificate to the restaurant. He hopes that partnering with the station will increase business for his carry-out pizza and subs, but he also understands that teaming up with WZBD is about supporting the community.
“It’s something we need,” says Wyss.
Beginning this month, WZBD will begin including Heritage in its regular broadcast schedule and news and sports reports.
Beginning in August, Heritage teams will become a regular part of the station’s high school broadcast schedule, with volleyball games against Bellmont, Adams Central and South Adams on the schedule. The football team will also have four games broadcast on Friday nights.
Head coach Casey Kolkman was on board from the start.
“This is awesome and I think it will be a great benefit to all,” said Kolkman, who has brought the program back to respectability in recent years.
Kolkman will join Adams County football coaches on the Saturday morning coaches show live from the West End Restaurant throughout the football season, adding insight and reaction to each week’s games with Rex Brewer.
“We have so many stories to tell,” says Heritage athletic director Tim Burton, who has worked at Elmhurst and South Side before taking over on Monroeville Road. “We are excited for this partnership.”
In the winter, Heritage basketball and wrestling will have a new home on the station, with Nicole Sisson, the girls basketball head coach, joining Matt Converset on the Saturday morning coaches show on WZBD. The new boys basketball coach, who will be hired by Burton in the near future, will also join the coaches from Adams County on alternating Saturday morning shows.
Brewer, who also hosts a Sunday night talk show about high school wrestling, is excited to bring the Patriots into the fold of the station’s best-in-the-state wrestling coverage.
“That is a program that has struggled with success going all the way back to when John Heller was coach and tried as hard as he could to build it up,” said Brewer. “There is potential there and I think we can help promote that program.”
Head volleyball coach Shelly Schwartz is from Adams County and knows the power WZBD has in local high school sports.
“I have experience first hand with the station,” she told a group of Heritage coaches last week. “I am so excited for this opportunity. You will find us competitive and showing top notch sportsmanship. We are extremely proud of our student athletes.”
Another local businessman, Adam Dager, is excited for the strong signal strength of the station and the ability to reach customers in the areas where his Marathon stations are. With stations in Monroe, Hoagland, Monroeville and Ossian, Dager is excited for the ability to partner with WZBD.
“When I heard about it, I immediately wanted to jump to the lead on it.” A coach himself, he knows the connection local communities have with their sports teams. “I am a passionate guy and this is a great way for us to advertise but also to partner with our communities and to give back.”
Fans of Heritage should check WZBD.com and tune in to 92.7 FM for all the coverage of Heritage athletics!