The wait is finally over.
After months of being confined to the weight room, or hoofing it through conditioning drills, today is the official start of high school football camp.
“For two weeks, it’s just football,” said Cambridge Springs head coach Clint Rauscher. “You’re just drenched in it for 12 hours a day. You get up, do it all day long, go home and rest, get up and do it again. The school day isn’t involved so much. You just do football.”
It’s an exciting time for coaches and players alike. Those Friday night lights are just weeks away.
“We have been in helmet and pads for a week now,” said Scott Salvo, who is entering his eighth season as Titusville head coach. “We are anxious to get out there and are ready for contact.”
Many coaches around the area agreed with Salvo’s excitement.
“We have been just doing a lot of paperwork and organizing,” said Pat Gould, who heads the newly formed Conneaut Area Senior High football team. “We are ready to get things started.”
Gould will have more on his plate during this year’s camp than most coaches. He and his staff are trying to condense rosters from three schools into one.
Conneaut Lake and Linesville converged into one team last year. This season, the new look Conneaut Area squad adds Conneaut Valley to the mix.
“I am not used to having this many kids on the field,” Gould said. “Our biggest challenge as a coaching staff is to make sure everyone understands the way we do things.”
There are also four schools in the area who have a first-year head coach. They may also go through a span of uncertainty at the start of camp.
Meadville, for example, will be without legendary head coach Ken Achenbach.
Achenbach, who won 97 games in 18 seasons with the Bulldogs, is now coaching tight ends and offensive tackles at Allegheny College. Filling Achenbach’s big shoes this year will be his former assistant coach, Mike Feleppa.
“It is definitely a different type of perspective,” Feleppa said. “It is going to be a challenge like every year. All eyes are on you now as a head coach. I’m in good spirits though. We have had a good turnout in lifting and conditioning programs and can’t wait to get the ball rolling.”
Elsewhere, Randy Gunther will take over for Union City after Joe Sanford lasted just a year at the Bears’ helm. Bryan Borkovich, who was an assistant at Meadville last season, will now lead Maplewood following the resignation of Matt Crocker. And Nathan Liberty is the new head coach at Cochranton, replacing long-time leader Tom Haynes. Haynes had been the Cardinals’ coach for the past 16 seasons.
“I am excited for this opportunity,” Liberty said. “Our goal this season from a coaches’ point of view is to be competitive. I am looking forward to our intensity and seeing the team come together throughout the next two weeks.”
One team that seemingly has little to worry about from year to year is General McLane. The Lancers have built a reputation under head coach Jim Wells of always being a championship caliber team. Wells doesn’t expect things to be different during this year’s camp.
“It is that time of year where we are all anxious to get back on the field,” Wells said.
Wells remains hopeful even after losing the key ingredients to his offense, including quarterback Josh Ponsoll and running backs Matt Astorino, Brian Suminski and Chad Kulka. All four ran for 600-plus yards last season.
“It is the process of the year that we lose guys from graduation,” Wells said. “We need other guys to step up. We are optimistic that the young guys will step up and add to their legacy.”
The biggest issue going into camp year in and year out is position battles, and seeing who shows up and who doesn’t. However, another main concern for coaches at every level is safety. Practicing twice a day in the summer heat can take a toll on some of the players, and the coaches make sure they do everything in their power to maintain the health of their players.
“We will have a cooler out there full of ice with towels in case the players need to put them on their necks,” coach Liberty said. “We will break after every individual and group station. Also, camp is from 1 to 8 p.m. so only a couple of hours will be during the hottest part of the day.”
The wait is finally over.
- Local Sports
No Triple Crown: Oxbow upsets Orb at Preakness
Right from the start, a horse trained by one not so over-the-hill Hall of Famer and ridden by another took control of the Preakness. The result: a huge upset and the end of any hopes for a Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes.
H.S. BASEBALL: Rockets too much for Bulldogs in season finale
TITUSVILLE — Year one of the Bruce Stewart era as the Meadville baseball head coach is officially in the books. Unfortunately it came with a defeat to the hands of Titusville. The Bulldogs committed three errors and allowed five unearned runs to cross the plate in a 7-3 loss at the Ed Myer Recreation Complex on Friday.
H.S. BOYS VOLLEYBALL: Cards clinch No. 2 spot for D-10 tourney
It took them until the final day of the regular season, but the Cochranton boys volleyball team now knows where they stand for next week’s Class AA District 10 playoffs.
H.S. TRACK & FIELD: Sternby runs away with gold at D-10 meet
HARBORCREEK — It was sweet redemption for Meadville’s Heather Sternby during Wednesday’s Class AAA District 10 Track and Field meet at Harbor Creek High School’s Paul J. Weitz Stadium.
After falling in the 100-meter dash to Grove City’s Courtney Corbin in last year’s meet by .09 seconds, Sternby got her revenge by defeating Corbin by .10 seconds in this year’s event.
H.S. SOFTBALL: Two-run sixth lifts Saegertown in Region 3 battle
With the playoffs looming, Saegertown head softball coach Mark McKissock hoped to get his girls an early taste of that intense postseason atmosphere.
TRACK AND FIELD: ’Dogs prepare for districts
It’s amazing how much difference a year can make. Last year at this time, the Meadville girls track and field team was the Region 3 champion and a serious contender to dethrone Grove City as the District 10 Class AAA champion.
H.S. BASEBALL: Saegertown rolls to sweep of Conneaut
Nothing could get in the way of the Saegertown baseball team picking up a pair of wins on Friday. Not even Mother Nature. With a dark cloud hanging over Ed Acker Field, the Panthers made quick work of Conneaut with a run-shortened 12-0 and 11-1 win in non-region play.
H.S. Baseball: Mother Nature interrupts Conneaut winning streak
Most years the most devastating opposition for area softball and baseball teams is old Mother Nature.
This year has been no different. The wrath, however, has been a little less traumatic.
H.S. TRACK & FIELD: ’Dogs close regular season with sweep
The Meadville track and field team ended the season with a bang on senior day and will be rolling into next week’s District 10 Class AAA Championships at Harbor Creek High School after sweeping Central Tech on Thursday at the Barco-Duratz Athletic Complex.
The boys (1-5) delivered a nail-biting 75-70 win, giving them their first win of the season, while the girls (3-3) cruised to a 120-26 victory.
H.S. BASEBALL: Oilers too slick for Eagles
LINESVILLE — The Oil City baseball team simply has Conneaut’s number this year.
“And that’s the only number we’ve had so far this year,” said Oil City head coach Adam Best. His team is now 2-12 on the season, 2-5 in Region 6. And both of those wins were against Conneaut.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- No Triple Crown: Oxbow upsets Orb at Preakness