Two new members of the Big Walnut High School Athletic Wall of Fame, Matty Bale and Nick Heiden, were recognized immediately before last Friday evening’s varsity football game against visiting New Albany.
Bale, a 1995 Big Walnut graduate, has been the football team’s equipment manager for 23 years; Heiden, a 2009 Big Walnut alumnus, was a football standout and a key member of the high school’s 2007 Division III state championship team.
Steve Butler introduced Bale, noting that Matty is a devoted Buckeyes football fan, car show enthusiast, and autograph hound. In true Buckeye fan fashion, Butler said, Bale recently got autographs from Cardell Jones and J.T. Barrett.
“Matty always wanted to come to Big Walnut and he has devoted his life to being part of Big Walnut’s culture,” Butler said. “He loves his players and is grateful for the support he receives from the coaching staff and the community.”
Matty is the son of Jerry and Sara Bale.
His high school football coach, Scott Wetzel, who said Nick was one of the top three players he ever coached, nominated Heiden, who went on to graduate from the University of Toledo with a degree in nursing.
Introducing Heiden was Big Walnut High School athletic director Brian Shelton. Shelton listed a host of Heiden’s accomplishments and awards earned while lettering in football, basketball and baseball at Big Walnut, including the coveted Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division Player of the Year Award.
Shelton said Heiden was known for making big plays in big moments, like the 2007 state football championship game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
“Nick had a temperature of 102 degrees prior to the game,” Shelton said. “Even though he was not feeling well, Nick found it within himself to play in the big game. It was cold, with game temps in the low 30s. Nick went on to have two interceptions in the last three minutes, with his final interception coming on Licking Valley’s last drive of the game at the one-yard line. Nick’s interception sealed the game and the first-ever Big Walnut football state championship.”
The Big Walnut High School varsity football team was 35-6 when Heiden was a starter; he was a starter in every game from 2006 through 2008. He was first-team OCC in 2008, the same year he was selected as the OCC Capital Division Player of the Year; and earned recognition as Academic All-Ohio in 2009.
“All of these accolades are great, but none of these even compare to the quality of an individual Nick is,” Shelton said. “Nick would like to thank all of his great coaches who have coached him and taught him so much more about life; and he would like to give a big thanks to his parents, Mike and MaryAnn. They were always there for him, even on the coldest or hottest days.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093