'Look team' helps Ford City stay perfect
At the end of last Thursday's practice, Ford City's football coaches went through their usual routine of awarding helmet stickers to players for various accomplishments.
The first acknowledgment was practice player of the week. Assistant coach Joe Stivason stood among the players, who had gathered in the bleachers, and announced a sticker was earned by "every look-team member that's eligible."
Almost all the boys cheered. Stivason's declaration seemed to promise stickers for anyone who had passing grades and represented the opposition at practice during team drills.
Not so fast, Stivason said. He stipulated that starters, or "fill-ins" as he called them, did not truly belong to the look team and therefore did not earn the stickers.
Several starters groaned with slight disappointment. Missing out on a sticker certainly didn't ruin their week, but they wanted some acknowledgment for what had become an enhanced role in practice.
In an effort to remain focused as the playoffs approach, Ford City has put more starters on the look-team side of the ball at practices during the last couple of weeks. The goal of the adjustment, players and coaches said, is to push and challenge the starters rather than let them go less than full speed against back-ups.
"You try to break (the routine) up so it's not monotonous," coach John Bartolovic said.
Such measures are necessary because the Sabers (7-0, 5-0) simply haven't strained much on Friday nights. Their average margin of victory is 29.43 points. And neither of their final two Allegheny Conference opponents — Apollo-Ridge (0-7, 0-5) and Burrell (4-3, 3-2) — has defeated Ford City in the past five years.
To avoid performance lulls at practices, Ford City has used players that are primarily one-way starters on the look team. More recently, the Sabers' coaches have split starters evenly between two teams and given each squad three plays to go 10 yards. The losing team does up-downs.
"We just talk to them about what's at stake, having a sense of pride and always working hard no matter who (the opponent) is," Bartolovic said.
Sabers starters say they don't mind representing the opposition on occasion. Nor do they care to go easy on their fellow lettermen.
"You don't want to go any lighter on them, because then they'll go lighter on Friday night," said Joe Peluso, who starts at center and also fills the position for the look team.
Defensive back and wide receiver Garrett Sigler attributed much of Ford City's perennial success to the strength of the Sabers' look team.
"You have to do the best you can do to make the other players better," Sigler said. "They get mad at you for that time for making them look bad, but they know, deep down, they'll know what to do from now on."
Being a look-team member does not mean players get a free pass to do as they please on offense or defense, lineman Brandon Fulton said. Coaches, if not players, still demand proper technique.
"If you mess up on defense, even though it's an (offensive) practice, they're still going to get on you about it," Fulton said, "because they want you to go hard and stay focused and make the offense better."