CUYAHOGA FALLS — High school football in Ohio officially returns Thursday as the calendar flips from July 31 to Aug. 1 and schools across the Buckeye state can hold practices with coaches and players preparing for the 2019 season.
Ahead of that on Wednesday was the fifth annual Suburban League Kickoff Meeting and Luncheon at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium.
Suburban League commissioner Keith Walker and Falls Athletic Director Tom DiFrancesco both stressed the importance of academics and athletics to the teenagers in attendance, including Falls players Donovan Mills, Braunavan Arsenault, Robert Graves and Alex Rowan, who sat alongside coach Shane Parker.
Barberton and Wadsworth are the two-time defending SL champions on the American and National side, respectively, after both compiled 10-0 regular seasons in 2017 and 2018 and made the Division II playoffs.
Wadsworth, 23-2 during the past two seasons, features players Trey Shaffer, Jack Grice, Brendan Gordon, Dom Loparo, Logan Egleston, Mason Fortner and Jamison Jackson.
“Football is the only other walk of life — other than our military — where you are asked in the blazing heat to put a helmet on, to have things on your back, to be yelled at, to be screamed at and to line up in straight lines,” Grizzlies coach Justin Todd said. “That is not easy to do. I get it … but playing high school football is one of the greatest things you will ever do.”
Barberton, which is 22-2 the past two seasons, will be led by Chase Haywood, Tim Starcher, Nick Plucinski, Tyler Eberhart, Ryan Watkins, Kaeleb Vega and Sonny Fox.
“Commitment is what we ask for as coaches,” Magics coach Tony Gotto said. “Guys that play the special game of football, we as coaches ask for a lot. If you are not playing another sport, we want you in the weight room getting bigger, faster and stronger.”
Nordonia coach Jeff Fox was accompanied by Collin McConahy, D’Anthony Valentine, Caleb Zender and Jaret Maciejowski. The Knights also return several other players from a 9-2 Division II playoff team from last year, including Joel Jones and Sal Perrine.
“This is always an awesome event, and more importantly thank you to all of the people that put this together,” Fox said. “This coaching community is second to none with so many good people that I respect.”
Twinsburg coach Mike Bell attended the luncheon with seniors Emile Levert, Jamir James, Dominick Glenn, Kyle Apple and Alex Bova.
Copley’s Jake Parsons and Tallmadge’s Mike Hay, both first-year head coaches, were in attendance along with coaches Terry Cistone (returning to Revere) and Alan Vanderink (transitioning to Kent Roosevelt).
Among Copley’s returning players are Rhett Van Voorhis, Marcel Sutton, Jackson Madden, Trenton Peck, Drew Ransom and Brendan Roddy.
“A message for all of the players — the No. 1 thing I can tell you about high school football is to live in the moment,” Parsons said.
Revere will be led by Ohio State recruit Ben Christman, Nate Klonowski, Mike Kahoe, Andrew Schwertner, Cody Luther and Shane Slattery.
“I am fortunate to be back,” Cistone said. “I was the head coach from 2003 to 2009, and I made a couple of phone calls and all of the coaches that coached with me at that time are still in the district. Everyone of them said, ‘Sure, let’s do it for the kids.’ ”
Tallmadge will be led by Drew Cross, Jesse Kanatzar and Ben Blankenship.
Stow coach Tom Phillips joined players Jaelen Crider, Josh Andrassy, Louie Aristide and Michael Mitchell at the luncheon, and nearby sat rival Hudson with coach Jeff Gough and players Evan Knipp, Mason McLaughlin, Patrick Just and Tyler Scherer.
The luncheon also included coaches Bob Mihalik (Aurora), Mike Gibbons (Highland) and Martin Poder (Brecksville), and North Royalton assistant Roel Seballos spoke in place of coach Nick Ciulli.
“All that hard work that everyone put in throughout the offseason, including those lonely months in the weight room, this is what it is all for,” Gibbons said. “We all get things rolling [Thursday]. So, best of luck to all of the teams.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.