EAST LIVERPOOL -The practice was action packed for the players, coaches and the officials.
The Ohio football team had its fourth day its first in full pads - of practice at the East Liverpool practice field in preparation for the 33rd Annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic Football Game which is scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. on June 29 at Springfield High School.
Thursday was also the third meeting of the participants of the Football Officials Academy which is being held at East Liverpool High School. The participants ended up taking an active role in the practice.
"It was nice," Ohio head coach Andrew Connor said. "It was nice having officials here. They could go over the things with the kids. Again, it was just the technique part. That was the technique part. They could watch for holding, watch for us jumping, things that maybe in the moment of emotion on the first day of hitting kind of calmed them down and made them realize there are still officials and you still want to play with controlled emotion next Friday. You just don't want to go out on the field and commit a lot of unforced errors, and I think it helped having the officials here today."
Practice began as usual with some stretching and running. After the completion of the conditioning, the players broke into four groups and ran through drills as four different stations. As the players were going through the drills, participants of the officials academy began making their way to the field from the high school.
The participants of the academy watched the completion of the drills before the Buckeyes took a water break. The Ohio team returned to the field for an offense vs. defense scrimmage, and the participants of the academy were able to take part in the scrimmage.
"I thought it went great," East Liverpool Assistant Principal Jay Kiger said. "What you worry about with young kids like that is them being overly tentative, and they really weren't.
We saw some good things. They got right into the middle of it. The ball goes on the ground, and they go in jump right on top of the pile and start digging for the football and things like that, so we saw a lot of good things.
"We saw a lot mistakes that we have to correct. The idea behind this whole thing is to make sure they have the basics - the basic mechanics - so they understand when they go out and start working the little leagues and junior high and stuff like that that they know where they are supposed to be, they understand the rules and they get a pretty good idea of what officiating is all about. If they like it, they stick with it and see how far they can go with it.
Officials from Columbiana County began officiating the scrimmage, and after a handful of players participants of the academy began working their way into the rotation.
Kiger said the participants were a little nervous while they were walking down to the practice field from the high school.
"Yeah, I think they were," he said. "The biggest thing with these kids is to get them to stop thinking like players because a lot of these kids are only a year or two removed from playing on Friday nights, so they think like players. You have got to get them out of that mindset of a player and get them to start thinking like an official, and that is really the hardest part of the whole thing."
Connor said practice was a little different due to the participation of the officials.
"It was because usually with practice you not only have to coach the practice you also have to do all of the spotting of the ball and the officiating and watching everything," he said. "With such a short time and now having the coaches devoting their time and attention to the little details of trying to run the offense and the defense it was nice having somebody else kind of take care of spotting the ball and stuff."
Throughout the scrimmage, the players, coaches and officials all interacted with one another.
"There was," Connor said. "They explained some things. They went over some stuff. That helps."
After the completion of the scrimmage, the Ohio team ran a little bit more before practice came to a close.
"We have got a great curriculum. We have great video that shows a lot of different examples of things that we are going to talk about up in the video room before we come down here on the field," Kiger said. "Tonight, it was about talking with players and talking with coaches. It was about how to get players and coaches on your side, and we saw a couple of these kids tonight step right in and say, 'Hey No. 33, back up a little bit.'
"It was about getting used to talking with the players, so yeah, it is so far so good. We are in week 3. We have got seven more to go."
Today will be the final day of practice for the week. The players and coaches will return to the field Monday.
"I think he (Coach Connor) is going to do walk-throughs basically next Thursday, but that will give these guys a chance to come down and see a kickoff, see a kickoff return, a field goal, a punt, special team situations like that.
"That will help too even if it is just for a little while when we come down. At least they can see it. We can talk about it all we want, but when you get down here and see it it is a whole different ballgame."
Some of the participants of the academy were a little surprised about how hard some of the players were hitting each other.
"I heard a couple of the officials talking about how they can believe how violent it was," Kiger said. "When you are watching from the stands and now you are 15 feet from it, it is a whole different world. Now, they have got a firsthand taste of, 'Wow, this gets pretty intense.'"
It was intense for a practice.
"Yeah, that's right, but Ohio got after each other there," Kiger said. "They were really getting after it pretty good, so I was surprised. They hadn't hit anybody since last October, so I would think they wanted to come down and really get after it a little bit and they did.
"Coach Connor is great. He's letting us come down here and invade his practice. We appreciate it."