Expectations vs. reality
Lights. Camera. Action.
When the official blows his whistle tonight, the kickoff will be for real.
The hits will be the same as they were in earlier scrimmages. But this time, they will keep score on the scoreboard.
The opening of high school football season is finally here, and with the start of the season comes high expectations and aspirations.
All the preseason talk of competing, making the playoffs and winning championships is now silent as scores are settled on the playing field.
Coaches from Ringgold to Monessen, Charleroi to Yough, and Belle Vernon Area to California all say expectations are high going into the season.
But now is the time where teams build on those expectations or begin to slowly watch them come tumbling down.
New Charleroi coach Don Militzer is taking over a program that has won just four games in the past two seasons. He is expecting to win more games than that this season.
“I've always believed in setting expectations high,” Militzer said. “I could never understand why some other coaches don't. I like to challenge my players. When I came here, I said the goal for us was to make the playoffs. We want to win now.”
Charleroi travels to Southmoreland to face the Scotties in an Interstate Conference opener.
Belle Vernon Area travels to Trinity in a Big Nine Conference opener, and new Lep mentor Matt Humbert says his team is ready.
“We are as ready as we will ever be,” said Humbert, who coached at Ringgold the last four seasons.
Humbert said the first game of the season is always a different animal, but he tries to downplay it to his players as much as possible.
“It is different, for sure, but I try not to make it a big thing with the players,” Humbert said. “It's kind of like the time when the kickstand comes off the bike and the players are out there on their own.
“It's an exciting time.”
Monessen coach Andy Pacak has been through 11 straight opening nights, including tonight's Eastern Conference trip to Greensburg Central Catholic.
Although he knows his team will be decidedly younger than it has been the last couple of seasons, he is not dialing down the expectations.
“Every year, our kids know what we expect from them,” Pacak said. “The bar is always set high and it's up to all of us to try and reach it. Inexperience is never an excuse for us.”
Pacak added that no matter how many years he has been a coach, opening night always has a special feeling.
“The kids are little more excited,” he said. “I've been here a long time, and that first game of the season always has a different feeling to it than the others. You can feel it in the locker room. You get to find out how far your team has come after conditioning, two weeks of camp and scrimmages. You just can't wait to get going.”
In other openers involving area teams, Ringgold travels to Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth Forward goes to Laurel Highlands in Class AAA's Big Nine Conference. Yough goes to Hollidaysburg in its first Class AAA game in the Greater Allegheny Conference.
In Class A, Frazier hosts Avella and Bentworth goes to Carmichaels in the Tri-County South Conference. California entertains Clairton in a non-conference contest.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.