King Football is back.
It seems like, only yesterday, we were sitting in sub-freezing temperatures watching the Ohio State championships in December.
Prep teams wrapped up two-a-days and scrimmages this past weekend and now have their sights firmly set on their week one opponent.
Trust me, you won't find a head football coach who will tell you anything different. Don't dare ask him about a game in week two, three, four, etc. While they sound cliche, football coaches really do look at the games one at a time and seek to be 1-0 each week.
The quest for Stark County and the OHSAA state finals officially begins this weekend.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE
While coaches have poured their hearts and souls into weight training, conditioning and preparation for the last several months, the key to a team's success often times isn't anything the other team or itself does.
Sometimes, it comes down to a level of luck being involved in terms of who can avoid the injury bug.
Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game of football and all sports for that matter.
Teams which can stay healthy usually have a greater chance at success especially Ohio Valley teams because depth is seemingly a concern at every school up-and-down the river.
As we made our rounds to different schools for their respective media days in the last few weeks, it was simply amazing how many coaches said something about their numbers being down.
Several factors jump out at me about that:
Obviously, not every player in the Ohio Valley or anywhere else, for that matter, is going to go on and play college sports. But, there's valuable lessons to be learned from high school sports, which can be utilized in daily life.
Things such as respect, dedication, hardwork and teamwork jump out at me, but there are countless more. Kids, these days, just seem to march to the beat of a different drum.
Injuries have already taken a toll a few schools. Harrison Central, which was beseiged by injuries a year ago, has been bitten; Bellaire's dealt with injuries and St. Clairsville has had a few players nicked. I am sure there are others out there, too.
Don't think for a minute that those coaches or any other, for that matter, are sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. I know all three well and all three are working their tails off to continue to get better.
STORYLINES TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Unlike the past, the league sprinkled in non-league games throughout the schedule, but now it's going to be a seven-week war, if you will, with teams beating each other up in front of hostile crowds. If teams come out healthy, they should certainly be big-game tested if and when they reach the playoffs.
Those are just a handful of the storylines this season, but something tells me that over the course of the next 10 weeks, plenty more will transpire.
KEEP IN MIND
As the weeks go by, and you begin tracking your favorite team in its playoff chase, remember several teams have changed divisions and/or region assignments for this season.
Harrison Central and Edison have dropped to Division IV from Division III. Both of those will join Union Local, St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry in Region 15, which is a change. The Belmont County trio had spent the past two seasons in Region 13.
Bellaire drops from Division IV to Division V. The Big Reds have been slotted into Region 17. They'll be joined by Barnesville, Monroe Central and Buckeye Trail. That region is a change for those schools. They had previously been in Region 19 and now the path to the state semifinals runs through Youngstown and Ursuline, which has appeared in the past four Division V state title games.
The Belmont County trio of Bridgeport, St. John and Shadyside have been re-assigned in Division VI. They'll now compete out of Region 21 rather than 23. Beallsville and River, however, remained in Region 23.
There are many players who've become seemingly household names around the Ohio Valley. However, again this season, there appears to be some players that might be ready to explode onto the scene. We've come up with a list of some of those, who appear ready for prime-time campaigns. Obviously, there could be plenty more, too, but this list is a starting point.
In no particular order: Mike Dalto (Bridgeport), Cody Frey (Bridgeport), Matt Hammond (Shadyside), Hunter McPherson (Shadyside), Chase Kinemond (Shadyside), Matt Kinnick (St. Clairsville), Jerrid Marhefka (St. Clairsville), Jaylon Brown (St. Clairsville), Grahamm Dauch (Beallsville), Teryn Jarrett (Beallsville), Chuck Myers (Bellaire), Josh Davis (Bellaire), Manny Ray (Bellaire), Justin Isinghood (Buckeye Local), Jordan Piergallini (Buckeye Local), Brett Rosen (River), Evan Eggleston (River), Jake Leishman (Union Local), Zane Ayouch (Union Local), Willie Brokaw (Union Local), Trent Neavin (Martins Ferry), Jeff Oberdick (Martins Ferry), Richie Padyjasek (Martins Ferry), Austin Schurr (Harrison Central), Nick Pelegreen (Harrison Central), Josh Moore (Harrison Central), C.J. Wise (Monroe Central), Korey Lafferre (Monroe Central), Tyler Fitzpatrick (Barnesville), Ian Wells (Barnesville) and Ricky Jordan (Linsly).
Obviously, this column is just a little piece to wet your appetite for high school football. For more of a quenching feeling, make sure you pick up a copy of Tuesday's Times Leader for the annual Pigskin Preview.
The 164-page book features in-depth previews and team pictures for all of the schools within The Times Leader coverage area. All told, 32 prep teams are featured along with detailed previews on Ohio State, West Virginia, West Liberty, Bethany, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
Along with the preview, The Times Leader's annual Pick Parade will debut Tuesday and its weekly Xs and Os game previews will continue to run in Wednesday's edition. This column will appear each Monday, other than Labor Day because there's no paper, throughout the season.
If you know of area natives or the children of area natives shining for or even coaching teams around the Buckeye State or nation for that matter, feel free to drop us a line at the email address below. We're always looking to spotlight area natives, who've gone on to do something interesting.
IF YOU'VE READ THIS FAR ...
You're officially a high school football junkie and, like us, you can't wait for the games to begin!
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org