Talk of the Town
by Judy Stringer
As many of us finalize our Super Bowl plans and snack lists, two former Hudson High School kickers – and their families – are surely basking in the glow of their own big bowl performances.
2021 HHS graduate and University of Pittsburg redshirt freshman, Caleb Junko, thrilled Panther fans with an 85-yard punt in the third quarter of the Dec. 30 Sun Bowl against UCLA. Caleb set a Sun Bowl and Pitt record with the kick, and Pitt went on to best the Bruins 37-35. Caleb’s mom Meredith Junko said the family was not at the El Paso, Texas, game, but watched it live on TV with much excitement.
“We’re regretting not being there,” she said. “Caleb was their back up kicker and a walk-on who was asked if he could punt when the team needed it. He won the position and started the last few games of the season. He kind of fell into that role when they needed him to. He hadn’t punted in a year.”
With the Explorers, Caleb was an All-Suburban League specialist, averaging 45 yards per punt under Coach Jeff Gough and helping the team to a 9-1 record and the district championship.
“He had probably one of the best field goals in Hudson football history,” Gough said, referring to the Explorer’s Suburban League National Division win over conference heavyweight Wadsworth in 2019. “With 3 seconds left on the clock, he kicked a 46-yard field goal to beat Wadsworth in regulation, which was just amazing. The whole team stormed the field.”
Caleb, who was a four-year letterman and three-year starter in soccer, comes from a football family. His grandfather, Bob Junko, was a longtime Pitt football coach and administrator. His brother, Josh, is a wide receiver for Pitt. His father, Dr. Jeff Junko, and uncle, Mike Junko, played football at Akron, while another uncle, Jay Junko, was a wide receiver and punter for Pitt.
“We were proud of Caleb for getting the job done on a big stage,” Meredith said. “It was a close game with lots of pressure. We are so thankful the coaches gave him a chance to show what he can do.”
Not to be outdone, Jonah Wieland, a 2017 HHS grad and punter for Ohio University, showed off his arm by throwing a two-point conversion in the first quarter of the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 30. The conversion put the Bobcats up, 8-7, early in the contest, which they went on to win, 30-27, against the Wyoming Cowboys.
Gough was not completely surprised by the trick play. He called Jonah “a jack of all trades,” and noted that he was consistently successful at targeting “little guys” while quarterbacking for summer youth football camps at HHS.
“Still, it’s always really unique watching any sort of kicker or punter or specialist throw passes, especially at a collegiate level,” Gough said.
Jonah was starting punter for the Explorers during the team’s 2016 trip to the final four. Gough said he also played tackle and contributed as a kicker during playoffs due to injuries. Now a grad student at OU, Jonah began his collegiate career at the University of Akron, playing in all 12 games for the Zips in 2019 and graduating in 2020 with a degree in business data.
Way to make your hometown proud!
The decorations, rocks and other knickknacks left at Maddy Perella’s commemoration tree behind Barlow Community Center are a touching tribute for her parents, Ellie and Dan. Maddy, a 2013 Hudson High School graduate, died on Aug. 28, 2021, after a brief and sudden illness.
“We were not given any indication that death was even a possibility until the very last minute,” said Ellie, explaining that Maddy had been admitted for a suspected case of acute onset lupus when she passed.
“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you and it’s happening in real time,” added Dan. “The best way we can describe it is that the world is going by at 100 miles an hour but everything is happening in slow motion inside of your personal experience.”
Ellie said Maddy’s tree had only been up for a few months before her friend Leslie Becka decorated it for Valentine’s Day in 2022 with 26 hearts for Maddy’s age. Since then, Leslie has continued to style the tree as the seasons pass, including the use of photos and poems recognizing the first anniversary of Maddy’s passing. Others have gotten into the tribute as well, with beautifully painted rocks and special trinkets.
“It’s just really, really touching to us that people we probably don’t know think enough about us to make that effort. It is really sweet,” said Ellie.
Skylar Miller adored dollhouses from afar as a child but is now literally surrounded by them. Skylar, a 2018 HHS graduate, began tinkering with dollhouses just over a year ago, building one from scratch. Last fall, she offered her repair and/or construction services to others via Facebook post and almost immediately got a pretty good chunk of business.
“I have 12 houses right now, so I really can’t take any more,” she said.
Skylar admits she “loves everything” about dollhouses and enjoys the creative jolt she gets from fixing them up. She’s replaced water-damaged walls, wallpapered and painted rooms and even built miniature furniture. She relies heavily on paint samples and popsicle sticks.
“There are also lots of miniature groups on Facebook and if I run into a problem, I’ll go to them,” she said.
Some of the dollhouses under repair have made a recent move with Skyler to Strongsville where the lifelong Hudsonite has taken up residence caring for marine life at the Ohio Fish Rescue.
We’ll tell you more about that in a future Hudson Life story, but that’s it for now. Tell us what you’re up to or share family news by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. ∞