If the first Friday night of the high school football season is a greatly anticipated event, what happens today may be one of the most dreaded arrivals.
It is the start of two-a-day practices for most Ohio teams, as summer vacation basically gives way to sports’ version of boot camp.
Two local schools — St. John’s Jesuit and Cardinal Stritch — actually got a jump on other area teams, having begun their respective two-a-days Thursday.
Ohio High School Athletic Association rules permit any schools that are to begin classes on or before Aug. 16 this year to start two-a-days on Aug. 1. Stritch starts school on Aug. 13, St. John’s on Aug. 14.
Ready or not, the rest of the teams start today.
Defending Division II state champion Central Catholic opens its first practice session from 8:45-11 a.m. After a two-hour break, the Irish resume with a 1-3 p.m. session.
“It’s exciting for a coach,” said 13th-year Central coach Greg Dempsey. “You spend six or seven months in a weight room waiting for this day to come where you can really practice.
“The first game is in sight, and for the seniors it’s their last go-round for two-a-days. They start to realize that their high school career is coming to an end. That usually brings a little extra juice from them.”
Central follows that same daily schedule through Saturday, and then switches to a routine next week that starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.
At Genoa, which has won five league titles in the last six seasons (Suburban Lakes League 2007-10; Northern Buckeye Conference 2012), the first-week slate is much different.
The Comets go from 2- 4:45 p.m. and then finish with a 6:15-8:45 practice.
“I would says 100 percent of the players and 99 percent of the coaches dread the first day of two-a-days, just because it’s change,” said second-year Genoa coach Tim Spiess. “You’re coming off summer vacation.
“We really go from one extreme to another. The first practice is tough. When we come out for the second practice that first day, and the sun is down in the sky a little, and you can feel the evening cool, we really get a rally. That anxiety is gone and all the butterflies are gone.”
The times are as varied around the area as the offensive and defensive schemes the teams utilize.
But all schools that begin today are limited to players wearing just helmets today and Tuesday, helmets and shoulder pads on Wednesday and Thursday, full pads with no contact on Friday, and full pads with contact thereafter until the start of the season. Sundays are mandatory off days per OHSAA rules.
Before the regular season opens on the weekend of Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 29-31, team are allowed to have up to three scrimmages between Aug. 13 and 23.
Recent weather patterns in the Midwest this summer will likely make these two-a-day sessions much more tolerable than in some past years, when excessive heat and humidity forced coaches to pay much closer attention to the health of their athletes, and to keeping them properly hydrated.
What do coaches hope to accomplish as two-a-days open?
“We’re emphasizing getting a lot done early this year to get ready for our tough early schedule,” Dempsey said. “We need to get as many guys ready as possible for that.”
The Irish open on Aug. 31 against Warren (Mich.) DeLaSalle at Wayne State University, play at Southview Sept. 6, host Perrysburg Sept. 13, and then open Three Rivers Athletic Conference play Sept. 20 at home against 2012 Division I state runner-up Whitmer.
Genoa’s initial objective will be a more fundamental approach.
“I’m still just as nervous about it now as I was in the 1980s,” said Spiess, who enters his 30th year in high school coaching. “It’s just that anticipation of the first day, and making certain the first drill is done right. That everybody’s there on time and that everybody’s on the same page.
“Your very first day you’re setting the tone for the entire season.”
Added Dempsey: “You want to have everything organized so that you can try to control the things you can control. You don’t want to overdo it with your kids from day one of camp.
“You want it to be intense, and you want a sense or urgency, but you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.