The Walsh Jesuit football team opened the 2014 season with a midnight practice on its new synthetic turf field on Aug. 1, and will continue it tonight when it hosts Week 1 opponent Youngstown Ursuline at 7 p.m.
“It ended up being a pretty neat event,” Walsh coach Gerry Rardin said in regards to the practice at Conway Memorial Stadium. “At 10:45 p.m. I was struggling and kind of tired because I am not usually awake at that time, but then the kids started arriving and the coaches were there and it was time to practice. Everyone was excited and ready to roll.”
Rardin said the practice featured three sessions. The first session started at midnight and went for an hour and 45 minutes. A break for 45 minutes followed, and then a second sessions last about an hour. Another 45-minute came and then the third session went for an hour and 45 minutes. Rardin said practice wrapped up around 6 a.m.
“The practices were outstanding,” Rardin said. “We had about 50 to 100 people at about midnight when we came out, and then naturally it was more quiet after that for the other practices. That was a really cool experience. The mom’s had pancakes and sausage, waffles, hashbrowns, fruit, bagels, donuts, milk and juice. They had it all. The kids ate like kings at about 6:30 a.m. and then everybody went home and slept. We were off that afternoon and evening, and then got back at it the next day.”
Rardin said he discussed the idea of having a midnight practice with his staff and decided to give it a go
“I was hesitant at first, but I thought what the heck lets have fun with it,” Rardin said. “We have a new synthetic turf field with new lights that are 10 times brighter. It is beautiful. It is a type of the line field and facility.”
Conway Memorial Stadium looks different due to a $1.5 million renovation project. The venue also has a new track and a new scoreboard. The Warriors football team also has new uniforms.
“I give all the credit to our President Karl Ertle,” Rardin said. “He has been tirelessly working to get donations from people and businesses. He worked with construction workers and everyone. They started in June and it was done in July. It is wonderful for practice. With the rain, we usually would have to deal with mud on a grass field.”
Here is a preview capsule for the 2014 football season:
Walsh Jesuit Warriors
League: North Coast League Blue Division. 2013 record: 7-3, 5-0.
Coach: Gerry Rardin, 35th season. Coach’s record: 246-115-2.
Players to watch: Anthony Rozum, Sr., S-RB; Zach Hatlovic, Sr., CB-WR; Chris Kazimir, Sr., three-year starter OL; Zac Connoley, Sr., DL; Noah Donald, Jr., DL; Pat Ford, Sr., QB … three-year starter; Joe Tupta, Sr., FB … three-year starter; Kyle Pawuk, Sr., S; Phil Bell, Jr., S; Anthony Siragusa, Sr., WR; Nick Schlosser, Sr., CB; Mac Shinaberry, Jr., LB; Logan Shannon, Jr., LB; Adam Pastor, Sr., OL-DL.
Outlook: Walsh returns seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense from last year’s team that won a league title and just missed qualifying for the Division II playoffs. Ford is entering his third year starting at quarterback, and Kazimir and Tupta are doing likewise at offensive lineman and fullback, respectively. “The strength of this team is at the returning skill positions,” Rardin said. “All the secondary is back from last year and so are a couple of defensive linemen. We are excited about the emergence of two linebackers. Our defense should be stronger. We are faster and more experienced. On the offensive side of the ball, we figure we have some playmakers there and a pretty good quarterback in Part Ford. With a good line and some talented running backs, we should be more balanced on offense this year.” Walsh reached the playoffs 16 times between 1985 and 2011. The Warriors won the 1999 Division II state championship.