With fifty area football games in the book after week one of the season, some opinion on what we’ll be talking (or writing) about for the next couple of months.
My usual Sunday morning email (sent at 6 am) was waiting yesterday as I sat down in my office with strong coffee.
It came from a friend in Wheelersburg, Ohio, who follows high school football, and in particular, teams with championship legacy.
“Well, what did you learn from week one?” he asked.
In a nutshell – that the game of high school football as it pertains to the athletes who play it has evolved. There’s just no question. Kids are bigger, stronger, and faster. And now…they can compete on that basis where a decade ago they couldn’t. It’s just that simple.
I looked at, in person, Chaminade and Marion this weekend. Marion, by far, was the bigger, more physical team. Their right tackle is listed at 6’6” and weighs 290 pounds…and he has friends nearly as big. Predictably, Marion’s good and they beat CJ by three scores (34-14), but had it not been for the brutal heat and humidity it could have been a different game.
Not that Marion wouldn’t have won. But CJ had athletes – players that could run with Marion, catch the ball, and make bigger players miss. Darian Jones, in particular, was athletic enough to do a forward flip into the end zone for the Eagles’ second score. He was penalized for showboating, yes, but his athleticism was impressive none the less. In the MAC they just cross the goal line and hand the ball to the official.
But that’s what I’m writing about – more players who can run, make plays, and make defenders miss. We’ve evolved from where the game was just ten short years ago.
I heard that from Joe Neves, who watched underdog Lehman nearly beat the defending state champions, Ft. Recovery. How? Because the Cavaliers have athletes. Even a sophomore quarterback who’s 5’9” tall and weighs 150 pounds (Elliot Gilardi). But given the ability to move around and throw, he almost threw the Cavaliers to a most surprising win.
There was no more surprising outcome than what Troy pulled off…a 10-6 verdict over favored Trotwood. We had picked the Rams on our Friday feature page, along with every other “predicts” page around the area and state. We were wrong.
But you see…Matt Burgbacher has convinced his Trojans in just one year that if you can move around, and run with the other team, you can hit people that heretofore you couldn’t get to to hit. You can win. And that’s how they won. Troy’s not that big, but they’re surprisingly athletic on defense and they believe in themselves. No more lumbering linemen, they can move. And when you can move you might just make that one more play necessary to win.
Finally, when Covington came back Saturday morning to beat St. Henry (27-13) it wasn’t an upset, as my emailer from Scioto County suggested, or asked. Hardly, and for this reason. I don’t believe in the term upset – I’ve written it before – because if you think you’re capable of competing you often DO win. Ty Cates has come to Covington and convinced his kids that if you can run, makes plays, and get to the opponent where you can compete with him…you can win!
St. Henry has a wonderful football tradition; and they’ll continue that tradition in the football-rich MAC conference. But a team like Covington, without marquee names or players (there is no A.J. Ouelette there now) can win if they can be athletic with an opponent. More teams now can, and did this weekend. And that’s what week one of the football season proved.
There are more kids playing now who are in better shape, run faster, hit harder, and can play longer – more kids capable at the end of the game of creating a turnover, picking it up, and running the length of the field to score the winning touchdown.
Or maybe they caught a pass that couldn’t even have been thrown a decade ago…or a sack of the quarterback that didn’t happen back then. Too tired, out of shape, and unconvinced. Who knows?
But that’s what we saw over and over on week one. That’s what we’ll see throughout the season. The future of football, and of sports, is now. Bigger…faster…better!
Other Things We Learned….
The best new football “look” we observed over the weekend was that of the Troy Trojans.
Last year Matt Burgbacher went back to the classic helmet logo of the Trojan star. This year they’ve brought back more of the classic uniform look, as well (see photo). I’ll say this. People may write to criticize, and to say that I’m too “old” when it comes to fashion. But a football uniform should look like football and not something futuristic.
One, they should identify teams clearly by school colors. Troy’s new look certainly does that – scarlet jerseys and classic silver pants.
And two, can you read the numbers on the uniform so you can actually identify the players? The Trojans’ new look features a classic font that stands out by contrast, silver on red. Very nice! Others seen and reported…not so much.
And, one of the things that I did not know previous to this weekend…in the decade-long tenure of Dick Roll as head coach at Lehman, the man has never won an opening game. Amazing…and he still hasn’t. The Cavaliers dropped a thriller to defending state champ Ft. Recovery on Friday, 21-20.
Of course, Dick always schedules a tough opening opponent. For years the Cavaliers opened with Anna when the Rockets were simply prohibitive. Lopsided scores and head shaking, but none of it deterred Roll.
He’s actually won about 70% of his games over ten years (78 games in all), and he’s known locally for having one of the five best records of any area coach from week three on, after he’s had a chance to settle in and get beyond teams like Anna and Ft. Recovery. After week 3 Dick’s percentage is almost 85%.
Critics will write and say that you can do that when you play Waynesfield Goshen and Upper Scioto on a regular basis. Perhaps. But I can think of another area favorite who once opened the season against Youngstown State.
Easy pickins’? If Lehman were to play the Penguins…I think I might take Lehman. By a field goal. On opening night. I now know…Dick Roll could use a win.