Area teams tune up this weekend for next Friday’s opener, leaving some observers to wonder, no doubt, as to who’s more ready…the teams or the fans?
And in all the annals of sport, I can’t possibly think of anything tougher…than to prepare 15, 16, and 17-year-old boys to play a game as complex as football has become, and expect them to execute perfectly under the pressure of opening night with just two scrimmages. That, essentially, is the essence of high school football. And to understand it more perfectly, consider. The NFL has four pre-season games and most of the professionals are still not perfect by opening day.
Some teams flourished Friday, like Anna, who scored 41 points in the first half and had a pair of touchdowns called back.
Others, like Covington, who played Anna, simply couldn’t get out of their own way – anything but ready for prime time come St. Henry, next Friday.
And then there were teams like Arcanum, with new head coach Jason Schondelmyer, who was making his second debut as the Trojans’ coach, ten years after making them a perennial winner in the Cross County Conference. He was brought back in March…to make them perennial winners again. Arcanum finished a disappointing 4-6 last year.
The Trojans teed it up Friday against Mark Lane’s Milton-Union Bulldogs, who finished 6-4 last year – a tough, grind-it-out team with a history of hitting first and asking questions later. And as per tradition, the ‘Dogs were physical again Friday.
They jumped out to an early lead on a 90-yard touchdown run, and eventually added to that lead to win 19-3 after three quarters of play. The JVs for both teams played in the final stanza. But for Schondelmyer’s young Trojans, their night was a model of failed rudiments…and inconsistency. It was, in ‘Schondo’s’ words, the signs of a young team.
“We did some good things, and we had some good plays,” said Schondelmyer afterwards. “We have to tackle better, for sure. We have to get to the football. But our inconsistency hurt us the most. We have to learn to play good football for four quarters.”
There were bright spots, even among the inconsistencies.
Milton’s Zach Shields showed why he’ll be one of the area’s top running backs this season. Built low to the ground and showing exceptional balance, he refused one tackle attempt after another.
On the other side, young Dylan Burns found daylight while toting the football for the Trojans. Not very big, he showed a willingness to compete against bigger, more experienced players – the size of the fight in the dog, as the saying goes.
Schondelmyer, who has coached at Versailles, the University of Dayton, Alter, and Tri-Village since leaving Arcanum in 2006, called frequent timeouts…for a breather, yes, but also to remind his kids that football is supposed to be fun. And it’s more fun when you play like you practice, and oh…just hit somebody.
“It takes a lot of patience,” he answered wearily, speaking to the question of how tough it is to get ready for football in just two short weeks of pre-season play. “It’s a matter of teaching.
“Sometimes it’s an Advil day, the headaches and all. And it’s a good question. Two weeks isn’t very much time. But you just have to keep working at it.”
As area teams will, for the love of the game, and, for the pursuit of those coveted post-season bids. Everyone wants to get to Canton, Ohio, for the December championships, and it all starts next week with some titanic matchups for opening night.
Div. VI state champion Marion Local will host Div. III Chaminade-Julienne in a rematch of last year’s opener, a 34-14 Marion win.
Troy will try to play with 2016 consistency as the 9-1 Trojans (last year) travel to Trotwood to play their former GWOC North rival, the Rams.
There is no better backyard rivalry in small-school football than Minster hosting Fort Loramie next Friday, less than five miles apart. The place will be packed.
And Press Pros will feature coverage of all three in our opening weekend edition. And yeah, it takes us a couple of weeks to get the kinks out, too. But after the seems-to-be-endless off-season, it’s time. We’re ready for some football.