As the opening week of high school football draws closer and closer, area players are busy preparing for the rigors of the upcoming season.
While the 'skill' players go through a bevy of 7-on-7 drills in preparation, many area linemen are gearing up for their own competition to help them get ready for the next several months.
The fourth annual Big Cat Lineman Challenge is slated for Saturday, July 27th at 10 a.m. at Fleming Field in Shadyside.
The event features a mixture of individual and team events with scores being tabulated to determine the 'Big Cat Award' winner. The top team wins the 'Iron Wall Award.'
"This event is a great unit builder," said challenge director Doug Campbell. "Some of the teams come into this and have first unit and second units. Some are upper classmen, some are under classmen, who've never played, let alone play with each other on the line. But, during this competition, you start to see the older kids cheering on the younger kids and vice versa. And all of the sudden, it's not about grade levels and individuals anymore, it's about being a unit."
The challenge, which is sponsored by the Shadyside Boosters, Melanko Construction, Kinetic Networking, United Dairy and The McKeen Group, has nine schools already committed.
Making their way to the challenge are: Shadyside, Monroe Central, Buckeye Local, Johnstown Northridge, Canal Fulton Northwest, Meadowbrook, Oak Glen, Bishop Donahue and River.
Campbell is still a bit perplexed as to why more area schools don't get involved. He's actually going to form a committee and try to come up with some ways to get more area schools involved.
"I've got to sit down and figure out how to appeal more to the local schools," Campbell said. "Without the support of local teams, we just can't continue. I'm grateful for schools like Monroe Central and Buckeye Local, who've been coming yearly. I just don't understand why schools like Bridgeport, Bellaire, St. Clairsville, Martins Ferry, Wheeling Central or Wheeling Park wouldn't want to participate. I'm not pushing the panic button, but just the frutation button."
The individual events in the competition are: bench press, one-man sled pull, tractor tire flip, medicine ball throw, Coach Ziggy's obstacle course and a truck fill.
The team events include: bench press, team truck push, farmer's walk relay, obstacle course relay and tug of war.
The top three finishers in six individual events and four team events will receive awards.
"We believe we put on a quality event," Campbell said.
Schools, which can enter multiples teams since five members constitutes a team, have until Saturday to register. The entry fee is $125 per team. Along with the aforementioned awards, each participant receives a t-shirt, lunch and there will be plenty of beverages available.
"We still have time and I'd like to hear from several schools," Campbell said. "This is an opportunity to recognize linemen for their efforts."
One aspect that Campbell's already made plans for is many of his 'helpers' will be at Bethany College for OVAC All-Star Football Camp since Shadyside's staff is guiding Team Ohio.
"Coach (Chase) Grinch and Coach (Jeff) Campbell tell me they're going to do everything they can to get to the field as early as possible once the Ohio team wraps up its practice," Campbell said. "But, I have a lot of volunteers, including past players, former coaches, boosters, football moms, etc. It's become a football family thing from a volunteer perspective. A little tweak here and there with the personnel, and we'll be fine."
For more information, or to register a team, call Campbell at 740-359-2104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com