It is that magic time of the year when we renew our love of football especially the high school part of this sport. It starts with 7 on 7 contests. These are the non-contact contests. After that the hard contact of late summer practices prepares our young people for the ten battles ahead. There are generally two exhibitions that are the final stages of the lineup competitions. Then in late August the Friday night lights are turned on in the cities, small towns, and consolidated schools in the middle of nowhere.
I enjoy coming to a high school stadium in late August or early September. Most of the fields are artificial turf but there is still freshly cut grass surrounding the area. The aroma of freshly cut grass is part of football Friday. The smell of freshly popped corn and hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill at Licking Heights is tempting. Later in the season there will be the battle for Broad Street in Pataskala. In Knox County the fans are preparing for the Devil/Dog game on alternate years in Howard and Danville.
There is a certain order of things. In each stadium whether Oak Hill or Wauseon certain seats are guaranteed without numbers. Some fans have been sitting on those seats for thirty years or more. Local radio will carry some of the games for the nights that are too cold or wet for us Oldtimers. Bands will thrill the crowd with musical salutes for each team. The home team will run out of the locker room through a paper arc advertised as prepared by the sophomores. The cheerleaders, who compete in the pre- season with the same gusto as the football players, will perform for the entire game.
The boys of fall will compete with strength and skills that will thrill the crowd some nights and disappoint the fans on other nights when the grandstand conversation will drift back twenty years to the greatest tailback of 2002. The fact is that, for the most part, these star athletes will be playing in their last competition at the end of their senior season. Some may compete in college but most , if they attend college, will put away their helmets forever. They will pursue a career, raise a family, and sit in these same stands for their children in the future.
It is that strange passage of each football generation that makes life so interesting. Parents will puff up with pride when their sons and daughters participate in band, cheerleading, and on the gridiron. Town folks will review the football games beginning the first Friday through the entire season. There are other sports, but none is as popular as football. Football is the only thing that remains uniquely American in a world of soccer, baseball and basketball. There is simply no football played on a regular basis anywhere else on the planet. Lately, Americans have less to hang onto that is not also embraced by the rest of the world. Football defines us as Americans.
Write Mike Sussman at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Sussman: The start of Ohio prep football is a magical time