Football season kicks off

The summer seems to drag on as players wait for the opening of high school football season.

“Everyone says there’s nothing like high school football,” South Range senior running back Joe Alessi said. “It’s true.”

The wait is over as the season kicks off tonight with Lisbon at Leetonia, Western Reserve at Columbiana and Salem at Mineral Ridge.

“It seems like forever,” Columbiana senior linebacker Drew Cyrus said. “It seems like we’ve been doing this for months and months now. But we’re ready to start playing against somebody else, not our other guys.”

“You start in June with conditioning, then eventually you get to camp week, and then you start two-a-days,” Crestview senior linebacker Derek Kozlowski said. “It feels like it takes forever, but its all worth it on opening day.”

“Football is the long sport,” Springfield senior running back Ryan Kohler said. “You practice for how many months just to play 10 games. It’s exciting to get out on the field.”

The rest of the area teams will open on Friday night.

“It’s all I think about. It’s all we think about,” Kohler said. “I can’t wait for it to get here.”

“It will be the best time of our life,” Alessi said. “Senior year, it will be our last opening day. It will be real fun.”

Lisbon and Leetonia will meet in the annual Spaghetti Bowl that has opened the season in recent years. The teams have played every year since 1940.

“You can’t wait to get out there and finally see what we can do,” Lisbon senior lineman Danny Donohue said. “I think we have a good chance this year. We have a lot of athletic kids who can do great things.”

For the seniors, this is their last high school football season and they realize they only have a few more games to play.

“Every day is my last day, you’ve got to put it all on the line,” United senior lineman Lucas Cooper said. “You can’t wait to be out there, trying to get a win and start the season out right.”

“It’s different because knowing this is my last year playing high school football,” Kohler said. “It’s what makes it sad. You kind of want to leave a legacy.”

“It’s a little sad,” Donohue said. “I’ve been playing since I was little. I love this sport. It’s a fun thing to do.”

Players at Crestview have had a lot of fun lately as the Rebels have won 37 of their last 39 regular-season games. It is up to the seniors to continue the tradition.

“You have to take on the role of the leader now,” Kozlowski said. “You have to lead by example and be sure you’re pushing yourself every practice to get better and get the team better.”

Meanwhile, the seniors at Columbiana are looking to help turn things around after the Clippers’ first losing season in 17 years.

“It’s a lot different. There is nobody to rely on to do the work, it’s all on your shoulders now,” Cyrus said. “It’s a big change. It’s good to accept those challenges. It builds character to overcome those things. That’s what we like about coming into the season.”

It will not be easy as the Clippers open against Western Reserve, which returns 13 starters from last year’s Division VII state semifinalist team.

“There’s going to be a lot of energy. Guys are going to be ready to go,” Cyrus said. “It’s a great team to play against in week one. They’re going to be coming after us, we’re going to be coming after them. It’s going to be a good matchup. That’s been in the back of our minds since we’ve been lifting in December. It’s always our goal. We’re looking forward to it.”

At South Range and Springfield, it has been hard not to look down the schedule and think about the final game on Oct. 31 between the two rivals that could decide the Inter-Tri County League upper tier title.

“The last game is going to be good,” Kohler said. “Most of our tougher games are going to be at home, so that is an advantage. If we just keep on playing together, we’ll push forward. I think we can get there.”

“You’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Alessi said. “Every game is going to be fun, but that last game will be good, too.