As far as I am concerned, summer ends on July 31 and, along with Autumn, Winter, and Spring, the fifth season of the year, football, begins Aug. 1.
It is the day when high school football teams in Ohio can officially start practice. Today most, if not all, Ohio teams have been working out several days a week all summer.
There are regulations, the biggest is that these workouts have to be voluntary. I suppose the workouts are good. Players start practice in very good physical condition. Coaches also have a chance to keep an eye on their players through the summer and make sure they are ready to play come Aug. 1.
I am not part of the coaching staff but am humorously referred to as a “consultant” at Clinton-Massie. I’m not sure what that means but I appreciate the coaches allowing me on the sidelines at the scrimmages and games.
I also like to attend several practices and enjoy the noise, the smells, and the rapport, yes I like the whole scene that takes place on the field in the season’s early days. My wife says it keeps me young. I don’t think anything is working to accomplish that.
Fifty years ago I was hired as the first head football coach at Clinton-Massie. My staff consisted of a well-educated farmer named Frank Irelan who had a burning love of the game and was anxious to see his two boys in football uniforms, and an elementary math teacher named Virgil Patrick who was a star quarterback at Wilmington College after WWII.
For the next 10 years we formed the core of the football coaching staff. Kenny Briggs, Sam Lewis, John Hosler and several others worked with us to produce three Fort Ancient Valley Conference champions. It was a great period those first 10 seasons and I could not have dreamed what coach Dan McSurley and his staff and players have accomplished over the past decade plus. And they are not done yet.
But let me take you back to that first season. We may have had 30 players in uniform and the start of two-a-day practices in 1964 was Aug. 20. It was the same date used when I was a high school player. There were no state playoffs and we started later in the year.
When my team showed up for uniforms I did not know a single player. Two of the group had played at Mason and had moved into the district but the remainder had never played a game. I understood that the previous year, they put on the equipment and for two weeks went out and hit a little. Basically we were starting from scratch.
On top of that, we had to lay out a football field. As I recall, we did this with string and stakes. The field is in the exact same place today.
There were no stands for our fans. In fact, there were no fans at that point. Most were looking forward to the strong basketball team that had to come from the consolidation of four county schools.
As I remember, a section or two of wood bleachers were brought in from somewhere. There was little mowing behind the new high school so we practiced on the baseball field parking lot. We practiced there for 10 years. I recall that every year on the first day, I would have the team line up and go down the field picking up glass, bottle caps, and any other dangerous debris.
Our first schedule was made up of several reserve teams and several varsity squads. We won the first six games beating Goshen, 24-20, Kings 22-0, Clermont Northeastern, 44-14, Waynesville, 12-6, Mason reserves, 32-6, and Hillsboro, 52-30.
Our success went to our heads as Blanchester won the first and only Cider Keg for the next 10 years, 12-6. Mechanicsburg taught us what a real football team plays like, thrashing us in our final game, 49-0.
However through the season we were told by several coaches that we were better than most of the varsity teams they played.
The first game was on a Saturday with Goshen and was played on a drought burnt field. I recall the Goshen coach threw a cigarette down and the field caught fire. He also told me he brought most of his varsity because they got beat Friday night. It was a humorous but great start.
Over the next nine years the Falcons won FAVC championships in 1967, 1968 and 1972. It was a great 10-year ride with many dedicated players, coaches, and, oh yes, we began to draw fans. I always felt that if I developed this first group of athletes from freshmen on, they would have been an awesome team.
It was a humble beginning but over the past 49 seasons, the program had a steady rise with a few hiccups along the way. I’m very proud to still be around to see today’s outstanding program, one born from the program we started in 1964 and continue to root for the red, white, and blue.