The official start of prep football practice arrives on Monday, but it seems that skill players have been honing their crafts for several weeks in 7-on-7 passing scrimmages.
During that time, linemen have been lifting weights and conditioning, but really haven't gotten to show off much.
That all changes Saturday morning at Fleming Field in Shadyside when the third annual Shadyside Boosters Big Cat Linemen Challenge unfolds with 11 teams from eight schools send their men in the trenches for a day-long competition.
SHADYSIDE’S Matt Hammond goes through the tire flip at the 2011 Big Cat Linemen Challenge at Fleming Field. He was the individual winner last year. This year’s event is slated for Saturday.
"This is a competition designed by linemen for linemen," said director Doug Campbell. "It's intense and can be emotional, but it's also a friendly competition that's aimed at building respect and camaraderie for fellow players in the trenches."
The challenge begins at 10:15 a.m. as representatives from Shadyside, St. John Central, River, Monroe Central, Johnstown Northridge, Canal Fulton Northwest, Buckeye Local and Meadowbrook are entered.
"My only disappointment in this event is that we haven't been able to attract more local schools thus far," Campbell said. "I think we've done a good job of getting the word out, but it's been a climb to attract some of the schools that surround us as well as West Virginia schools."
The event consists of four rounds. The first two rounds will be used to determine the individual winner, while the second two rounds will be utilized for the team portion of the event.
The first round consists of bench press, tractor tire flip and sled pull. The second round features sand bag fill, medicine ball throw and an obstacle course.
After a break for lunch, the team competition should begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. That round will consist of team truch push, obstacle course relay and farmers walk relay.
Along with those team events, the total number of reps from each of the bench pressers will be added together.
The final round will be a tug-o-war between the teams, which will put the teams 10 yards apart and the team that pulls the flag over the line will be declared the winner. There's a three minute time limit for a stalemate.
The points for the event are awarded on a ranking system and cumulative point total - for both team and individual scoring - will be declared the winner.
The top three individuals in each event will receive a medal and the top finisher will be recognized as the "Big Cat Lineman." The winning team award is the "Iron Wall"
The Buckeye Local Panthers are defending team champions. The reigning Big Cat Award Winner, which goes to the individual with the highest score, is Shadyside alumnus Matt Hammond, who is playing in this weekend's OVAC All-Star Game.
In its short history, the Big Cat Linemen Challenge has produced seven all-Ohio linemen, four all-staters in West Virginia and 16 all-OVAC selections.
From a team standpoint, the competition included three future playoff teams in 2010 and 2011.
Campbell wants to see the event grow and continue to get better and he's seeking advice.
Each coach will receive a form to rate the event and provide suggestions.
"We're definitely open to suggestions," Campbell said. "Coach Andy Schumacher from Monroe Central suggested several things during last year's event and they were great ideas, so we've incorporated them into this year's event. I've talked to several West Virginia coaches and they've provided us with some scheduling ideas as well to get their schools involved next year."
The officials for the event are members of the Shadyside Boosters, coaches, administrators and former Shadyside linemen.
Campbell has been extremely thankful for the support of the sponsors from throughout Shadyside and the entire Ohio Valley.
The chief sponsors for the event are Melanko Construction, World Gym, United Dairy, Ohio/West Virginia Excavating, Belmont Savings Bank and WKKX Radio.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org