Blue Devils take ownership

BEALLSVILLE – Uncertainty has been delivered in large doses for members of the Beallsville High School football team since the Blue Devils walked off the field last November.

First, they had to wait to see if the school was going to open for the 2014-15 school year.

Already with a tightened financial belt, members of the Switzerland of Ohio Board of Education looked into the possibility of closing Beallsville and sending its students to other high schools within the district.

In late May, the board decided to keep the school open.

Then came the question of whether or not there’d be a varsity football team – not due to lack of passion or work ethic, but interest.

One of the smallest schools in the OVAC, Beallsville has struggled in recent years to have enough healthy bodies to field a squad.

It soon, too, became apparent there’d be enough players to field a team.

Next, came the issue of finding a head coach.

In May, Paul Kanzigg, who guided the Blue Devils to a 6-4 mark and an Ohio Division VII playoff appearance last fall, retired.

The job stayed unfilled for nearly two months, but was expected to have been filled this morning, during a meeting of the board.

The hiring of a new head coach is another step in preparations for the 2014 campaign. But anyone that follows football at any level knows, offseason preparation is just as important, if not more, than work put forth during the season.

That’s why the players at Beallsville, boosted by the seniors, grabbed the bull by the horns, and got the ball rolling on preparing for the season themselves weeks before the coach was named.

”We just didn’t want to sit around and do nothing because we knew we were already behind as far as getting ready for the season went” said Tristan Palmer, one of the Blue Devils’ five seniors, during a session Monday evening.

”We wanted to get moving and running because there were other teams having practice scrimmages and we hadn’t even started practices yet.

”We’re just trying to get in step and stuff like that.”

What started with a few players soon turned into an exercise in team togetherness – right when the team, school and community needed it.

”We’re all close,” Palmer said. ”It’s a small town … we’re all close, we’re all friends.

”It just kind of started as a couple of us and it’s just grown into the 18 or 19 or so we have at every practice.

”It’s going good right now.”

That’s welcome news for Rick Meade, who’s volunteered his time to help run the workouts, along with others familiar with the kids and the program. A 1996 Beallsville graduate, Meade knows well what the team means to the community and the players.

”These kids are always willing to be out here and work hard,” said Meade, himself a candidate for the head coaching position.

”We have very good leaders. They are ready to go senior-wise. If it were up to them, they’d be going on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Meade stepped in aware he might not be around when the first day of practice begins Friday, Aug. 1. Still, he wanted to make sure the kids were prepared.

”We’re getting them ready for whomever gets the job,” he said.

While Palmer and his teammates are appreciative of Meade and the others, they would’ve preferred to have had a head coach in place sooner. That being said, the players know the coaching situation was something they couldn’t control. Getting ready for the season was.

”It’s been a challenge mentally,” Palmer said. ”But I think everyone is dedicated. If not, we wouldn’t be here.”

Due to the uncertainty of the school and/or coaching situation, some players have opted to transfer or not come out. And Palmer respects their decisions.

But for the seniors remaining (Palmer, Mikey Palmer, Zac Daugherty, Zack Raines and Mark Shaffer) they’re focused on turning a challenging situation into one that reaps great rewards.

”We’ve been together since we were freshmen when we went to the regional finals,” Tristan Palmer said. ”It’s been our goal to get back there ever since. So, hopefully, we get rolling and we have a shot at it.”