Prep football set to kickoff
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:
- The biggest and probably most prevalent is the fact that the Ohio Valley is declining in population. Nearly every school in the Ohio Valley lost enrollment in last October’s Emus Report. Middle-aged people just aren’t sticking around the Ohio Valley. While it’s truly unfortunate, it’s a fact. Opportunities are greater elsewhere and people are seizing those.
- The second reason for low numbers is genuine laziness. Let’s be honest, kids do not want to do much. Playing football is hard work. You give up nearly a month of your summer vacation to strap on pads and a helmet and, as one coach put it, knock heads with each other. The temperature and humidity are high, but the air conditioning is also high in the house where there’s PlayStation, XBox and a computer with Internet access.
- The third reason, to me, is a genuine state of apathy. There’s a huge generation gap from the way it was to the current. By that, we mean when kids grew up in the Ohio Valley some 20, 30, 40 years ago, all they wanted to do was play sports. Kids just have other interests these days. In what? We’re not exactly sure, but it’s obviously not always playing sports.
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
- Monroe Central head coach Jay Circosta and Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia are currently tied atop the all-time wins list in the Ohio Valley with 291 victories. It’ll be interesting to see if either of those guys can get to 300 wins this season. Judging by their teams, I think it’s highly possible both reach and surpass the barrier, further cementing their place in Ohio history and their one-way ticket to the OVAC Hall of Fame once they end their brilliant careers.
- Union Local’s been in the news basically all summer for off-field issues, involving ‘Pay to Participate.’ While that might not be settled until Thursday’s school board meeting, the Jets will open the season Friday against Meadowbrook. It’ll be interesting to see how the Jets’ youth responds this season. Coach Mark Cisar will trot a team out that’s still very young in age, but it did gain experience last season.
- Barnesville and Beallsville are two teams primed for big seasons, in my opinion. It seems as if the Shamrocks and Blue Devils are flying under the radar somewhat, but something tells me it might not take too long for people to realize the kind of talent both of these teams boast this season.
- Shadyside is coming off a state runnerup finish, but head coach Mark Holenka has been guarding his team against getting a big head or believing there’s some sort of entitlement. The Tigers have a very formidable opener Friday against Strasburg, which is expecting a big season. Speaking of Shadyside, two wins this season will give Shadyside its 500th victory in school history.
- The Buckeye 8 has altered its scheduling for this season. League games won’t begin until week four. It was interesting, during the offseason, to see how those teams scratched and clawed to fill their schedules in the first three weeks and now it’ll be even more interesting to see what kind of toll this takes on the teams.
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