This sharp-as-tacks team's game is courtroom law, not basketball.
For the second year in a row, a mock trial team from Archbold will compete against the 33 other top teams in Ohio, beginning Thursday.
Archbold's seven-student team of “lawyers'' and “witnesses'' won the northwest Ohio district competition.
“I can't wait. It's exciting for us,'' said senior Jen Pape, an award-winning Archbold student attorney.
The road to a courthouse in Columbus was not a smooth one for the Archbold team, which had to overcome a trial or two before competition even started.
In the week before the district competition, two of the team's lawyers had to drop out and replacements had to step in at the 11th hour.
And the Archbold team is coached by a government teacher and football coach who has no background in law and admits that the students win despite him.
“Having me as coach is our team's weakness because I'm inexperienced in law,'' said Bob Priest. “Other teams' coaches are attorneys.
“The kids do most of it on their own. I give them all the credit,” he said. “They come up with their own questions for witnesses. They look at the other side and try to guess what the questions will be. Obviously, they do a pretty good job.''
Team members would argue with their coach. Miss Pape said Mr. Priest is the one who motivates and inspires them.
The mock trial program was started in 1983 and is sponsored by the state bar association, Attorney General Betty Montgomery, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation.
In Columbus, each team will compete in two trials, with eight making the quarterfinal round.
The Archbold team met at 7 a.m. each morning in the weeks before the district, framing questions, preparing for what could be thrown at them, Mr. Priest says.
By then, the two teams had fallen into place for this year's racial-profiling case in which a car full of students is stopped after a baseball game and police discover marijuana in a backpack.
Miss Pape is thinking of a future in law. “I like being a lawyer. In mock trial, I like to control witnesses, make them say what I want them to say, make them look foolish,'' she said.
She and teammate Jen Yoder did it well enough to win individual attorney awards in the district.
After months of early morning practice, with district competition near, one senior attorney had to drop out. “A sophomore, Cole Stringer, who had no idea what mock trial was, agreed to do the part,'' Mr. Priest said. “He worked hard and did a great job.”
Then, two days before the district, another attorney was unable to compete.
“One of our witnesses, Jodi Crossgrove, said she'd double up as an attorney. She did a tremendous job. “
The team will get no big sendoff to the state trials, Mr. Priest said.
“Downtown windows are not painted up, there are no signs,'' he said. “But people here in town appreciate what they've done. We've got lots of cards of encouragement. The school has given the team tremendous support, but there will be no pep rally because Archbold is very businesslike about things like this. When the volleyball team won the state championship there was no big sendoff.
“People here are proud of the students, but they understand that competing at the state level should not be the highlight of their lives.''
Meanwhile, Sylvania Southview sent teams to two districts and qualified both of them for the 34-team state trials.
A Sylvania team won in Port Clinton and another team finished first in Dayton, where it had competed with special permission because several members were also in debate-team competition there the same weekend.
Coached by attorney Dennis Lyle, Southview reached the state competition for the sixth straight year.
Southview won Ohio championships in 1996 and 1999, and its 1996 team was ranked seventh in the United States.
Other schools from northwest Ohio that qualified teams to compete at the state level were Fostoria St. Wendelin, Celina, and Edison.