With the 2012 high school football season kicking off tonight when coach Ryan David’s Lakeside Dragons welcome coach Dick Angle’s Howland Tigers into Lakeside Stadium, we asked our 10 area head coaches for their thoughts on what makes opening night special.
As usual, their responses are varied and thoughtful, and we present them, alphatically, by school:
Rocco Dobran, Conneaut
“It’s a great and exciting feeling. Everyone is anxious to go out and see what they’ve got. Everyone believes they can win cause they’ve all worked so hard all summer. The adrenaline of every coach and player on or off the field is flying high. Fans are excited... cheerleaders... bands. You can’t get a better atmosphere than that.
“My favorite memory of a home opener was my freshman year at Muskingum. We were playing Denison and I was enjoying the atmosphere not planning on really playing and in pregame, our kick returner blew out his knee. So in the 20 minutes right before kickof,f the coach walks up to me and tells me I’m starting on kickoff return. The butterflies started immediately and when i got on the field, I could not believe I was actually out their first play of the season.
“Then, the ball wasn’t kicked to me. I know, anti-climatic, but it was a great feeling and great memory.
Dom Iarocci, Edgewood
“As a player, my favorite memory was playing against Erie East in high school and scoring two touchdowns my first varsity game while at St. John.
“As a coach, beating Ashtubula in the opening game two out of three years in the mid-’90s was very satisfying. Also, playing Youngstown Cardinal Mooney home and away and giving them a very good contest while coaching at Ashtabula during the late ’80s.
“As a coach, openers are special when you win. Optimism is always high.”
Tony Hassett, Geneva
“As a player, you feel the excitement of your home-opening game, hoping to achieve the goals you and your teammates have set. It is a very special time.
“As a coach you want the players to be prepared the best they can, so that they can be successful together and by doing that it will be something they will remember for a long time.
John Glavickas, Grand Valley
“I feel opening day is special, no matter who you are, whether you are a player or a coach. There is nothing like playing or coaching on Friday nights. I can remember playing in high school, I was a ham and egger. I was a guy who had to fight for every second of playing time, but just played because of my love for the game.
“I can remember that no matter what my role was going to be it was like Christmas Eve when I was a kid. I would lie awake at night just thinking of how the game was going to play out. I still get that same feeling on Thursday night before our opener.
“I guess if you truly love the game, it never changes.”
Jimmy Henson, Jefferson
“The feeling is much differenet than when I played — butterflies in the stomach, anticipation of what is about to happen.
“As a coach, off the top of my head, probably my favorite memory is when we opened the new stadium and watching Connor (Cleveland) take the opening kickoff back for a TD.”
Ryan David, Lakeside
“It is very stressful, more than exciting. You try to prepare for everything, but there is always something that happens before, during or after a game that you’re not expecting.
“My favorite memory as a coach was coaching my first college game against Bethany College.
“My most exciting memory as a player was starting as a freshman against West Virginia Tech.”
Tim Willis, Madison
“Every year is special. This is my 28th year doing this and I still get butterflies.”
Matt Rosati, Perry
“It never gets old. It is a neat feeling. The dreams of another season. My most memorable opening day was in 1996, my first time as a head coach, talking to the great Ray Paglio of Mayfield before the game.
“Coach Paglio was really jacked up and basically told me that he was sorry, but his Wildcats were going to take it to us and all I said was that my mother wanted to know if his mother made him pasta before for his first game as a head coach, like my mother just did.
“Coach Paglio was a little taken back and he paused and then laughed. It is just a game and we all have mothers who love us. That moment, I will never forget.
“By the way, Coach Paglio did take it to us, but I lost on a full stomach. Thanks, Mom!”
Neal Croston, PV
“When it comes to sports, that opening kickoff is really something special.
“As a player, I remember my first varsity game, running down the field against Mohawk.
“As a coach it was two years ago beating Berkshire, 12-7.”
Dave Bors, Riverside
“It’s a feeling of great anticipation, excitement and honor to be part of it. The coaches and players have been thinking about Friday night since the season ended last year and the hype builds with each day as we near kickoff.
“Everyone has high hopes and lofty goals and the expectations for the new season are always sky-high for all teams.
“I, personally, have a lot of favorite memories of opening nights. I don’t know that I could choose just one. However, the most special openers and the ones that sit a little closer to the front of my memory bank always have the players seeing everything they’ve invested into the program as far as hard work, sacrifice, discipline, effort and accountability come to fruition when the clock reaches zero.”
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