PORTSMOUTH — Ethan Boggs never met a stranger, gave everybody a good laugh, was part of a tight-knit group of friends, and was oh so close to realizing a lifelong dream.
Unfortunately for family, friends and his Portsmouth High School Trojan teammates, all everybody has now of him is fond memories.
Boggs, on March 30, passed away at the all-too-young age of 18 — as he was born on Aug. 29, 2001 in Portsmouth to Ralph Boggs and Marisue Franklin Hobbs.
The Trojans senior who played football his freshman and sophomore seasons also played baseball for the Portsmouth program —and was one of five seniors on this season’s squad for first-year head coach Aaron Duncan.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association spring sports season is currently on postponement until at least May 1 due to the threat of the coronavirus, so the Trojans — like ALL other athletic programs in the state — haven’t been able to practice or meet collectively since Saturday, March 14.
Boggs was set to graduate from Portsmouth High School in May, and had recently passed his ASVAB exam —clearing the way for him to formally enter the United States Army.
Duncan, who coached Boggs in football, along with his closest friends and fellow Trojan seniors Bryce Wallace and Eric Purdy — paused and reflected recently on Boggs’ passing.
He transferred from the Portsmouth West (Washington-Nile) school district before the fifth grade, after meeting Wallace and Purdy before a fourth-grade Pee Wee Football game.
Purdy said the trio just “instantly clicked”, and their friendship never wavered.
“Ethan meant the world to me. He wasn’t just my best friend. He was my brother. At the time Ethan, Bryce and I met, he went to West and Bryce and I went to Portsmouth, but that didn’t get in the way of our friendship. We became so close with him that he ended up moving to Portsmouth. From that moment on, we were inseparable. The three of us have been through everything and I mean EVERYTHING together, and stuck together through thick and thin, the good and the bad,” said Purdy. “In hindsight, I wish I would’ve played sports with him past sophomore year. After freshman year I stopped playing baseball and after sophomore year he stopped playing football. He was the most light-hearted, never serious and funniest person that I have ever had the privilege of meeting and not a day will go by where I won’t miss him.”
Wallace and Boggs also shared a common love for sports, in particular baseball.
“Baseball was our sport together. You would never see me with a bat or ball in my hand without him around. We warmed up throwing together. We did our hitting stations together. We sat by each other on the bus to and from every single away game. We competed with each other in everything that had to do with the sport,” Wallace reflected. “In the (batting) cages, I would always tell him that he was swinging like ‘a little girl’, and he’d ask to use my bat because he thought that’s why I was hitting better than him.”
Duncan also coached Boggs in Little League, and was the Trojans’ head football coach for three years (2015, 2016 and 2017) — following a 17-year (1998-2014) stint as a PHS assistant.
“Ethan was part of this senior class that was very young when I had them in the football program, but they were very talented all the way from Pee Wee to high school, and were going to be successful. That group included Bryce (Wallace) and Eric (Purdy) and Talyn Parker (two-time Division V Southeast District Offensive Player of Year in 2018 and 2019). For Ethan, it was hard for him to find a starting position on the varsity, but he filled in the gap as the junior varsity quarterback, which we needed. He was reluctant at first, but he stepped in, stepped up and did it,” he said. “I encouraged him, and I think he took a liking to me for that.”
After Duncan stepped away as the football coach, Boggs stopped playing, but was eager about baseball beginning —once Duncan was hired as that sport’s skipper in August.
“I was hired (as baseball coach), we had open hitting in November, and Ethan showed up excited and ready to go for his senior year. It was like a light bulb went on for him. He really worked hard all winter and was probably going to be our ace pitcher or our number-two,” said the coach. “He had a variety of pitches that he used, worked really hard at his hitting, just was eager to get this season going.”
Unfortunately, the season never got going —at least it didn’t by March 30, which was the originally-scheduled opening day for most clubs around the Buckeye State.
Duncan described Boggs as “very likable”, “made you smile”, and as somebody who “worked hard but had fun”.
“His teammates all liked him. He had a very likeable personality. Everybody had a fun story to share about Ethan,” he said. “He brought a lot of smiles to a lot of peoples’ faces.”
The coach also expressed Boggs’ joy about passing his ASVAB test and entering the military —which was his lifelong goal.
Duncan believes that had the baseball season started on time, and if Boggs could have been around his teammates for the two weeks prior to his death, that he would still be here.
“I will never question God’s timing, and I believe everything happens for a reason, but there’s that ‘what if’ had we been playing ball by now,” he said. “Ethan was really working hard in practice, he was ready for baseball season, he had his academics on track, and he was excited about going into the military. I hate that it happened, and believe me there were a lot of teammates, teachers and coaches who cared about Ethan and wanted to see him succeed. There was a lot of people who texted or called me for hours and days after he passed. They are tore up and upset. I know God’s timing is always right, but had we been playing ball already, I think he would still be with us.”
Wallace said he admired Boggs for more than just being a fellow Trojan athlete.
“Ethan didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He would do anything for anyone not caring about what people thought. Going to school at Portsmouth, we have some mentally handicapped kids. These kids are just like us and seen no different as anyone else there, but have a few more challenges than a lot of other students. Ethan would take art class every year. And every year a kid that struggles with challenges like this would be in his class. Ethan would make it his life’s mission to become friends with whoever it was. I’ll guarantee you that these kids felt loved when Ethan was in their presence. I guarantee you that these kids never sat alone at lunch. And I guarantee you that these kids always felt safe,” he said. “Ethan had a heart the size of the moon and knew how to communicate with kids that are struggling too.”
Wallace, with a story from a football Friday night, concurred with Purdy — and explained about Boggs’ unbreakable bond between them.
“He thought it was a blessing every day that he was a part of a friend group that stuck by each other no matter what. And we all thought the same. We support each other no matter the circumstances. I remember this year (2019) during our football game against Coal Grove. It was the first play of the second half. I touch my helmet to signal to my quarterback that I’m running straight and I wanted him to throw it up to me. The play goes and the ball gets thrown up. I reached over a kid, caught the ball, ran and scored. I will never forget that play. But not because of the catch and score, but because of what happened after,” said Wallace. “I look up and I see Ethan standing against the fence. He is jumping up and down looking at me with the biggest smile on his face. I will never ever forget that scene. My best friend, my brother, just as happy as I was in that moment. It’s times like those that I will never forget with Ethan.”
Those times, unfortunately, are all fond memories everyone now has of Boggs.
“We were supposed to graduate together, we were supposed to go on senior trip, we were supposed to have our graduation party together. He talked about joining the Army every day and was so excited. I was going to be so excited to see him leave for basic training, so I could show him the happiness he showed me during that football game. So many things we planned to do,” said Wallace. “As much as I question it, God needed him more than we did, which must’ve been an awful lot.”
Along with his parents, grandparents and other family members, he is survived by three sisters, Skylar Boggs, Shaley Boggs and Maci Hobbs; and two brothers, Sylas Boggs and Nicholas Hobbs.
Arrangements were under the direction of the Roger W. Davis Funeral Home in West Portsmouth.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved