By DOUG DONNELLY
BLISSFIELD – For the better part of the 1990s, Ron Estes built a Summerfield basketball program that won the first Bulldog TCC title in school history, set a team record for wins in a season with 19 and had five winning seasons in seven years.
Fifteen years later, Estes will return to Summerfield when his Blissfield Royal boys basketball team faces the Bulldogs. The game is tonight at 7.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Estes said Thursday after Blissfield fell to Clinton. “It will be fun. I’m sure there’s no one left that will remember me around there but I still look forward to going back.”
In fact, there are plenty of people who recall Estes in Summerfield, especially current Bulldog head coach David Raymond, who played point guard for Estes at Summerfield in his final season.
“Coaching against Ron will be a little surreal, especially since it will be at Summerfield,” Raymond said. “We obviously spent a lot of time in that gym together during my playing days and it will be good to see him. That being said, it will be the first time that I’m competing against him, and I am looking forward to the challenge. I have nothing but respect for him.”
While at Summerfield, Estes was known for 6 a.m. practices and have a team of gritty basketball players that seemed to dive for every loose ball and never backed away from an opponent. The 1994-95 Summerfield team won the TCC title by beating Sand Creek and ending the Aggies’ string of TCC championships. The Bulldogs once squared off against Class A Bedford, giving the Mules a battle.
“He always harped on us about working together and out hustling the other team,” Raymond said. “I’ve tried to implement what he’s taught me in our program at Summerfield.”
Estes has enjoyed a high-level of success in his various coaching ventures. He coached Deerfield’s baseball team to a Tri-County Conference championship in 1983. He coached basketball at both Toledo Central Catholic and Northwood before landing the head coaching job at Summerfield. He spent seven seasons coaching the Bulldogs, compiling an 88-63 record, including a TCC title. His 88 wins is two off the Summerfield record for most victories by a head coach – Bob Howard won 90.
He left Summerfield and became an assistant football coach at Blissfield before getting the head coaching position. He built the team into a powerhouse. The Royals had lost 33 straight varsity football games before Estes became the head coach. His impact was immediate as the Royals went 3-6 in 2002. They were in the playoffs in 2003 and in the state Division 6 championship game in 2007.
Estes coached Blissfield’s football team for 11 seasons, compiling a record of 76-39. His teams made eight playoff appearances and one state final game.
He had a year off before rejoining the coaching ranks at Blissfield when John Vandecaveye stepped down after coaching the Royals for 24 seasons.
At Summerfield, Estes went 4-16, 12-9, 19-3 in 1994-95, 13-9, 14-7, 10-11 and 16-8.
Raymond, in his second year coaching the Bulldogs, said Estes will be welcomed back to the Summerfield gym.
“He is the ultimate grinder and he dedicates an insane amount of time to his team,” Raymond said. “I know he will have his guys ready to play us. I’m really looking forward to it.”