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Sidelines: Liberty-Benton football to open vs. Canadian team

Liberty-Benton will open the 2008 football season in distinctive fashion.

The Eagles will host a team from Canada, playing Notre Dame Catholic Secondary of Ajax, Ont.

Instead of the typical Friday night game, it will be played Thursday, Aug. 21.

L-B athletic director Dean Butler said the unique contest was born out of necessity.

Mohawk dropped us as our opening game, and we had a difficult time finding a replacement, Butler said. We talked to about 75 different schools which said no for varying reasons, and [football coach] Tim Nichols and I were at our wit s end.

Then Butler learned that Columbus Bishop Ready, the Division V state runner-up a year ago, had played Notre Dame Catholic last season as the Canadian school took its football team to New Orleans to do work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The way I operate a football program is that football is a small part of the big picture, Notre Dame Catholic coach Brian Hughes said. When our players move to the next level of football, I want them to take some of the other lessons they ve learned off the field with them.

The good thing about this game is that it will indicate to our players where they belong in the big picture of football, both in the United States and Canada.

The Canadian team will leave on the Thursday morning of the contest, play at L-B that night, then finish traveling to Louisiana the next day. The players will do work around New Orleans, play a game the following Friday, then return home.

As for the game with Liberty-Benton, Notre Dame Catholic will labor under some disadvantages. Canadian football uses 12 players on a larger field, and the Canadian game features three plays to get a first down instead of the four plays used here.

Football in Ohio is a religion. For us, football is a pastime, Hughes said. We ll put on the best performance we can. I think our players understand that playing a good team like this is a way in which we can get better.

This contest is the second in the area scheduled to be played on that Thursday. Napoleon and Defiance have also moved their traditional season-opener to Aug. 21.

Bryan has hired Travis Cooper as its new football coach, replacing Brian Arnold, who remains as the school s athletic director.

Cooper takes over the Golden Bears after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach at Defiance working with the running backs for four seasons before leading the defensive backs last year. He also has served as an assistant baseball coach for the Bulldogs.

Cooper, a 1998 graduate of Fairview, played football for the Apaches before spending a season as a defensive back at Ohio Northern University.

The first thing that attracted me to this job was the athletes in the school, Cooper said. I m impressed with the things coach Arnold has started there, and I know the pieces are in place for that program to have success.

Cooper said his ties to the area have made him aware of the fine coaches around the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.

You look up and down the line, and the [NWOAL] is filled with perennially tough schools, Cooper said. There s coach [Rex] Lingruen in Liberty Center, coach [Bill] Inselmann at Patrick Henry, coach [John] Downey at Archbold all of the schools have excellent coaches.

I think there s a lot to be learned from these guys.

Whitmer senior running back Anthony Allen signed a letter of intent last Thursday accepting a scholarship to play at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, one of the nation s top junior college football programs. The Greyhounds, 9-3 last year and ranked 13th nationally by, play in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.

The 6-1, 175-pound Allen was named All-City League first team and Division I all-district in both 2006 and 2007. He led the CL in rushing as a junior with 1,173 yards on 157 carries and scored 18 TDs in 10 games for the 9-4 Panthers. He missed three games because of an emergency appendectomy, returning for Whitmer s loss to Canton McKinley in the Division I regional final.

As a senior, Allen gained 1,002 yards on 150 carries scored 17 TDs for 9-3 Whitmer, helping the Panthers to a regional semifinal. In those two seasons Allen also caught 25 passes for 527 yards. He was named to the 2006 All-Blade offensive team, and was twice named All-Ohio honorable mention.

Central Catholic s Tyler Kleeberger and Anthony Wayne s Hank Taylor will become teammates at Mount Union College.

The two quarterbacks will play for the Purple Raiders, who have won nine NCAA Division IIInational championships.

Kleeberger was third in the City League with 1,353 yards passing in the regular season to lead the Irish to the City League title last season.

Taylor was second in the Northern Lakes League with 1,340 yards passing.

Also, Central Catholic s Greg Hammond (linebacker/running back) is headed to Ohio Northern, Josh Dixon (lineman) will attend Otterbein College and Tim McQuillin (wide receiver/defensive back) will continue playing at West Liberty State (W.Va.).

One of Ken Burgei s former players has been named as Burgei s replacement as Wauseon boys basketball coach.

Chad Burt, a 1994 Wauseon graduate who played on the team that lost in the Division II state championship game to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, will take over as head coach after serving as anassistant to Burgei for the last 10 seasons.

I ve experienced some success here as both a player and assistant coach, but this is very exciting, Burt said. I m replacing a legend, so I know I have some pretty big shoes to fill.

But I grew up here, I graduated from here, and I ve come back to teach and coach here, so this is very special. I feel I m home.

Burgei retired this past season after 25 years as coach of the Indians, posting a 322-242 career record after a 15-6 finish last season. Wauseon won or shared the NWOAL title five times under Burgei, including the school s most recent title in 2000.

I thought coach Burgei always was well prepared, whether it was a game or a practice, and I thought he was great with X s and O s, Burt said. But I think his biggest strength was the relationships he made with coaches and with players.

If there s anything I ve learned from him, it s the value of those relationships.

Burt finished his Wauseon career as the school s second all-time leading scorer with 1,333 points. He served as baseball coach from 2001-05 and also was an assistant football coach.

A pair of Wood County coaches passed the 400-victory mark two days apart last week.

On April 21, Elmwood posted an 8-5 home victory over Lakota, giving coach Kyle Reiser his 400th win. The Royals began this week with a 13-1 overall record and are 5-0 in the Suburban Lakes League, giving Reiser a career record of 402-129.

Two days later Perrysburg s Dave Hall claimed the 400th victory when the Yellow Jackets earned an 8-6 home win over Northview. Entering the week, Perrysburg was 10-4, 3-2 in the Northern Lakes League, making Hall s career mark 400-244.

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