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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2007

Bulldogs plan their first barks at midnight

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Werbylo Werbylo
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Another Ohio high school football season officially kicks off tomorrow with practice.

For many, the season will not arrive soon enough. Think Harry Potter geeks waiting to purchase the next release by J.K. Rowling.

Rossford and Swanton two programs coming off dismal seasons will be among the first in line to start the football campaign. The two Bulldog teams plan to take the practice field tonight at the stroke of midnight, hours ahead of most schools that traditionally open the season in the brightness of natural sunlight, not stadium lights.

Chris Werbylo, who is entering his fifth season as Rossford s coach, decided to head into the 2007 campaign a little differently from last season when the Bulldogs struggled mightily.

We re doing this to get the team excited about the season, said Werbylo of the midnight practice at the Gold Medal Indoor Sports facility. We want to get that 1-9 season behind us. We re going to go from midnight to 6 a.m.

The Bulldogs plan to practice for about an hour and a half before calling it quits. Werbylo said the team will stay inside the indoor soccer facility until daylight, partly as a bonding opportunity and for precautionary reasons to avoid having anyone on the streets at that time.

Swanton first-year coach Ben Ohlemacher reached a decision with the rest of his newly assembled coaching staff to hold a midnight madness practice in an attempt to drum up excitement for a team that has suffered a couple of 0-10 seasons during the past five years and is 5-45 during that period.

It s a new idea to show some enthusiasm to a program that s been down for a number of years, Ohlemacher said.

Swanton was 2-8 last season, ultimately leading to Ohlemacher getting hired in February. The 28-year-old former assistant coach at Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic and his alma mater Sandusky, accepted the job with an outlook that the Bulldogs are capable of a turnaround. He has spent enough time with a group of nearly three dozen players who participated regularly in offseason workouts to feel optimistic about the program s future.

We lifted weights during the spring before school from 6:15 to 7:30, Monday through Thursday, to help find out who is committed to the program, Ohlemacher said. I think we ve gotten off to a pretty good start.

It used to be a football town and I think people want that again. They re hungry for a winner.

The high school football practice schedule, as prescribed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, allows for teams to practice in helmets and no pads for the first two days, helmets and shoulder pads for the third and fourth days, full equipment but no contact drills on the fifth day and full contact on the sixth.

Both teams are expecting a good fan turnout for the night-time/early morning opening day workouts.

While everyone else is sleeping we re going to get a jump on everyone else, Ohlemacher said.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.


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