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Playoff Football is FUN!
November 15, 2012 - Michael Palmer
It does not matter what type of sport you have participated in, if you have been to the playoffs or tournament level you know that it is a whole new game.
Playoff football is a different experience for high school players, coaches and fans. While your peers are preparing for the basketball season, you are one of the select few in the entire State of Ohio who is still playing football. Each mistake is amplified and emotions, like adrenaline, run high as the players take to the field of play.
Emphasizing that these are high school kids, some are new drivers, some still to learn. Some have not yet even begun to shave. Yet there they are, with hundreds of fans looking on cheering or critiquing each move they make, now in the Regional Final. Just two wins away from playing in the State Championships.
They have girl friends, homework quizzes and tests, still practicing each night.
The pressure is tough to handle for teenagers.
There will be pep rallies, send off parades, charter bus trips and some media attention adding to the frenzy and flurry of the playoff atmosphere.
When it all comes down to the same basics that were first taught in pee-wee practices, fundamentals and execution.
I had one coach who said it mattered very little which play he called if we all did our jobs, if we all executed. With 11 players on each side of the ball, if each of us did our job, if we hit our blocking assignments and stayed on that block, cleared a gap for the ball carrier, that would leave just one player for the running back to beat.
We have all seen this happen, a short yardage situation with the goal line packages in on both sides of the line of scrimmage. A running back hits the defense, who are stacked in the box to prevent the short yardage, busts through the line of scrimmage, breaks one tackle as the safety tries to take out his pins and it results in 6 points.
At this level of the playoffs it can come down to who gets the key stop or even who touches the ball last to determine a winner.
Everyone repeats the same warning, “St C has not been tested this season.”
That is true, in fact most of the varsity squad has not played much over two quarters of football in any game this season. Impressively last week against Piketon the Devils substituted midway through the third quarter.
So how would they fair in a dog fight?
As a photographer I stand on the sidelines with these players, and while they are the same players that were there last season, just a year older, it is a different atmosphere.
I can not put my finger on it. I can not explain why they are hands down a better team than last season.
I can tell you there is a confidence, a swagger if you will. Not an arrogance, no this is something special.
Knowing that there are teams like Delphos St. John waiting in the post season brackets, it is tough to say where the road ends for this St. Clairsville team, but it is a thrill to be a part of the experience.
My high school team was not a championship contender, so it was a thrill to see Shadyside make it to the state championship game. It is a thrill to play a small role in recording the experience for their scrapbooks.
Johnstown Monroe had a close call against my Alma mater Heath (4-6) winning 18-14 over the Bulldogs in week 2. In week 1 Heath lost 46-21 to Martins Ferry, so using that often flawed slide-rule of competition comparison - I predict another win and a 13-0 mark for the red Devils.
There is a long tradition of not winning state titles in this part of the state, with the exception of Steubenville no one is considered as a perennial contender in any sport, so perhaps this season is another step in a positive direction and some past due respect for our teams.
A lot of our area football fans from all over the Buckeye 8 are heading to see this game Friday night. I hope I will see you in Zanesville!
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