Annual Big Cat Lineman Challenge set for July 26

SHADYSIDE – As preparation for the high school football season continues, linemen will get their chance to hone their skills at Fleming Field later this month.

The fifth annual Shadyside Boosters Big Cat Lineman Challenge will feature six schools and and at least 11 teams of linemen for the July 26th event, which begins at 10 a.m.

The event, which is the brainchild of Doug Campbell, has hosted 287 linemen and 56 teams from 17 schools.

Slated to compete this year are Shadyside, Buckeye Local, John Marshall, Meadowbrook, River and Monroe Central.

The event crowns individual winners in the bench press, tractor tire flip, sled pull, medicine ball throw, obstacle course and truck fill.

Along with the individual winners, there is an overall lineman winner, who will receive the “Big Cat” Award.

The team events include bench press, truck push, farmers walk relay, obstacle course relay and tug-o-war. The top team receives the “Iron Wall Award.”

The top three finishers in each individual event will receive an award.

“I think we run a quality event,” Campbell said. “Do we have all the bells and whistles of electronic timing? No. Do we have the luxury of turf? No, but we we have about 50 volunteers who come out every year in the hot and humid days of July to make sure these young men are well taken care of.”

Each participant receives a t-shirt and lunch, courtesy of the Shadyside Boosters.

“I’ve yet to see a team go home that didn’t have a good time,” Campbell said. “I’ve had coaches, parents and the most gratifying, of all, the athletes approach me during the year simply to tell me what a great time it was.”

Campbell was growing concerned about the future of the event because of a slower response from schools this year.

He begins the process of contacting schools in mid January and does three other mailings and follow-up phone calls.

“We mailed packets to to all OVAC coaches as well as to each of the top eight schools in the Ohio Division VII regions,” Campbell said. “We’ve had some luck with schools outside of the OVAC, so I thought maybe we could extend beyond the borders of the OVAC.”

Campbell cited the past participation of Johnstown Northridge and 2012 champion Canal Fulton Northwest.

While Campbell understands the schools from outside of the area not able to take part, he’s still scratching his head that more OVAC members don’t take part.

“I can’t figure out why we can’t attract more OVAC schools, especially on the Ohio side,” Campbell said. “We would love to host the schools in our backyard, but we get absolutely no response from them.”

Some of the West Virginia schools aren’t able to participate because of off-season coaching rules in the Mountain State.

Campbell reached out to Bernie Dolan and SSAC Commissioner Gary Ray about that and schools from West Virginia are able to participate, but they can’t go by their school name.

Thus, in the competition, the aforementioned J.M. teams will be known as Gold, Brown and White.

Campbell expressed his gratitude to the sponsors – Melanko Construction, Kinetic Networking, United Dairy, Belmont Savings and Loan and DeFelice Brothers Pizza – and all of the volunteers who help make the entire event run smoothly.

“Every person there is a volunteer,” Campbell stressed. “Obviously, the boosters play a big role, but we also get support from the Shadyside Football Moms, the administration, coaches, former players and people who don’t even have anyone involved in athletics. It blows me away and I’m so appreciative of the efforts put forth by everyone.”

Campbell and his staff are already thinking about the 2016 event and some minor tweaks could be forthcoming.

“I see us adding a couple of events and I see us adding even more incentive for coaches to get their linemen involved,” Campbell said. “The first five years have been a whole lot of fun, but we’ll re-tool it a bit. We’re not going to ‘fix it’ because it’s definitely not broke … it’s just a re-tool.”