Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey spent a couple hours on Monday morning addressing some paperwork before assembling the reigning Division II state champions together on the first official day for high school football teams to practice across the state of Ohio.
A business-as-usual approach to kick off the season is how the Irish would like to rush into the year, attempting to duplicate a memorable 2012 campaign. Central Catholic will play in D-III after the Ohio High School Athletic Association added a seventh division for this season.
PHOTO GALLERY: Northview, Start High Schools begin two-a-day practices
Yet there was no denying ample anticipation and enthusiasm among the Irish to gather and practice on Day 1.
“It was a great day, great weather, and it was exciting,” Dempsey said moments after the Irish completed their first practice on the field turf at Gallagher Stadium.
Student athletes are limited to practicing in helmets, shirts, and shorts during the first four days of the OHSAA’s sanctioned football season. The first day to take the field in full pads and helmets is scheduled for Friday, followed by full contact workouts [scrimmaging] on Saturday.
Central, which defeated Trotwood-Madison 16-12 in the D-II title game last December, begins the season recognized as a state title-contender. The Irish are led by quarterback DeShone Kizer, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior and Notre Dame commit who apparently has waited longer for the first day than most.
“It’s been a big day,” Kizer said of Monday’s practice session. “Ever since eighth grade I've been looking forward to this [my senior] season. When I was younger I was trying to figure out where I was going to be at this point in my life.
“I’m really happy with where I’m at, and I’m excited to get out with my guys and continue to put our stamp on the school. We had a very successful season last year, but this year we’re looking to do a little bit more than what we did last year.”
The Irish’s offensive leader thought they exhibited plenty of enthusiasm and drive during the workout, which included running some offensive and defensive plays.
“Everyone was really amped up and ready to go today,” Kizer said. “This was a great practice. We put in a lot over the offseason, but we’re going to continue to learn and continue to get better.”
Start coach Tyson Harder opened Day 1 of the season believing the Spartans were plenty motivated. Start is coming off a 2012 season in which it fell 16-15 to crosstown rival Bowsher, which secured the City League championship with the victory.
“There’s a huge buzz, especially losing your final game by a point,” Harder said. “It’s been a bad taste in the mouth for the kids for the whole offseason.”
A turnout of approximately 50 took to the Spartans’ practice field.
After losing 23 players from last year’s near-league title team to graduation, Harder is counting on 12 seniors to lead this year’s team, particularly during this early stage of the season.
“There are a lot of uncertainties,” Harder said. “It’s a new crop of kids. There’s a lot of uncertainties.”
Rogers coach Keith Dawson welcomed about 50 players to the Rams’ first practice. They spent plenty of the session working on a revamped no-huddle offense under an overcast sky.
“It’s a young team, but an eager team,” Dawson said. “They’re open-minded to learning.
“I was absolutely ready to get out today. The weather was perfect. The attitudes of the kids are great.”
As for defending Division I state runner-up Whitmer, the Panthers returned to Ohio Northern University to kick off their season by spending the first three days of the practice schedule in a “boot camp-like setting.”
“We’re sticking with what works,” coach Jerry Bell said of their excursion. “We get to hang out together. It’s a family atmosphere. We get a chance to bond and build chemistry.”