There may be no better sign that summer is on the way out and fall is just around the corner than seeing high school football players returning to the practice field.
Coaches and players at Jonathan Alder, West Jefferson and London High School’s started two-a-day practices on Friday, Aug. 1, on the first day teams could start officially practicing. Madison-Plains opted for a family fun night/cookout on the first day and will get their players started with extended practices on Monday.
There was a gleam in the eyes of West Jefferson head football coach Shawn Buescher as he and his coaches put the Roughriders through a pair of opening day practices. He knows that official practices are just the beginning of what many consider the best time of the year.
“It’s great to be around the kids, we felt like we had a good summer in the weight room and with conditioning,” Buescher said. “We really maxed out our camp days and got a lot of stuff in. So we really feel like we’re heading in the right direction.
“I love (two-a-days) for the fact that we get to have the kids around each other to build camaraderie, we get a chance to really emphasize the intangibles in our program, and get to spend a lot of time together over the next two weeks. We get a lot done and that’s extremely important, not just for the football aspect of things but also the team building.”
The only Madison County school that made the 2013 state playoffs was West Jefferson. The Roughriders (12-2) advanced all the way to the Division V state semifinals before being eliminated by Coldwater. West Jefferson will again play in D-V this year while Madison-Plains (3-7 last year) will compete in D-VI. London (2-8) and Jonathan Alder (3-7) will compete in D-IV.
There are new coaches at both Alder and London. Long time defensive coordinator Brett Glass takes over for Steve Coate at Alder, while Kyle Cuter assumes the reins for the Red Raiders. Cutler was most recently an assistant at Bishop Ready.
The regular season for teams will start the week of Aug. 25.
London will open at Urbana, Aug. 29. On the same night Madison-Plains will host Cedarville, Jonathan Alder will play at neighboring Marysville and West Jefferson will welcome in Mechanicsburg.
Of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s 824 member schools, 723 sponsor football teams, which is eight more schools than in 2013. Seven of the eight new schools are in Division VII. A total of 224 schools — 32 in each Division — will qualify for the playoffs when the final computer ratings are announced Nov. 2. During the 2014 playoffs, Divisions II, III, IV and VI will play on Fridays, while Divisions I, V and VII will play on Saturdays (same format as 2013).
One of the divisions playing on Fridays during the playoffs will play its state championship game on Thursday, Dec. 4. The other Friday divisions will play their state championship games on Friday, Dec. 5, while the Saturday divisions will play their state championship games on Saturday, Dec. 6. The state championships schedule will be announced after the state semifinals. For the first time since 1989, the state championship games will be hosted at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadpressSports.