New Castle News

Sports

August 13, 2013

Photos, Story: Football practice begins at high schools throughout the county

NEW CASTLE — Shoulder pads were clashing, whistles were blowing and coaches were yelling.

It all signified the return of high school football across the area and state yesterday as the first day of football practice kicked off for eight Lawrence County schools.

Two new coaches — Pat Cuba (Laurel) and Mike Commesso (Shenango) — also took the field with their squads.

Teams worked out in various conditions as well. In the morning and into the afternoon, temperatures were comfortable with splashes of periodic sunshine. Later in the day, those splashes were the result of a brief shower.

“We got one crack of thunder, but thank goodness there was no lightning,” Cuba said. “There was only one crack so we didn’t have to go in. These kids will stay outside. They don’t care if it’s a driving rainstorm. They’ll stay out here and practice.”

Said second-year Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio of the conditions, “I like it hot. I like to burn them into shape. But you have to take what they give you. I didn’t like the rain, but the kids liked it. They had fun with it.”

The brief rain was enough for the Scotties to take a break from their work before going back for a final half-hour.

“We figured we’re not going to get anything done but slop around in the rain so we took a break,” Union coach Stacy Robinson said. “The ball gets wet and you’re just wasting time so we went in and did some functional exercises to maintain our strength.”

Numbers continue to decline around the county, with 326 total players suiting up yesterday. In 2009, 358 gridders took part on the opening day. But 341 came out in 2010, 336 in 2011 and 335 last year.

“I don’t know if football is big in a lot of homes,” Robinson said. “There was a time when the Steelers were the only thing in town and everybody based their Sunday on it. You’ve got people that might be watching the Home & Garden channel now, HGTV, instead of the Steelers. The world’s changing.”

Laurel (42 this year and 40 last year), Mohawk (41 this year and 36 last year) and Neshannock (41 this year and 39 last year) were the only schools to see a spike in numbers.

“It’s real simple, this is a tough, tough game. It’s not for everybody,” Mozzocio said of the numbers issue. “There’s a lot of other things to do that’s more conducive to our society right now.

“This is a tough thing to do. I think some kids just choose to do other things that are less grueling on their every day lives. Lawrence County is still a football county and I think we’ll have a good showing all the way through the county in all classifications.”

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