Mentors from seven conferences talked about their teams.
By JOHN BUTERA
AUSTINTOWN -- Twenty-six high school football coaches from seven conferences gathered Sunday at St. Joseph's church for the third annual Coaches Huddle.
Representatives from the Steel Valley, City Series, Tri-County League, Inter-County League, Trumbull Athletic Conference, Metro Athletic Conference and the Mercer County Athletic Conference attended.
Boardman's Garry Smith opened the coaches' remarks by saying his team has a lot of talent coming back on offense.
"Defensively, it's wide open," he said. "And as always, the Steel Valley is loaded."
Chaney coach Ron Berdis said, "Right now, our mission is to get better every day. We lost a lot of skill from last year's team.
"At this point, all of the teams just want to be more creative with the second scrimmage that we got back. But, we still need those three extra practice days back, too."
Coach new teams: Three coaches -- Canfield's Mike Pavlansky, Salem's Doug Phillips and Springfield's John Smith -- will be directing programs for the first time.
"We'll be a very simple team," Pavlansky said. "It will be a real challenge for us as we return only four senior starters."
Smith takes over for Phillips at Springfield.
"I know I've got some big shoes to fill, but I'm honored to be here. We have our work cut out for us, but we've been stressing to the kids that we're not rebuilding, just reloading," Smith said.
For Phillips, the challenge is a huge one as he takes over a Salem program whose 2000 record of 2-8 has been an indication of how that program has done the last several years.
"I certainly love challenges," Phillips said. "But right now, we have to focus on what we can do and not worry about our schedule."
Girard coach Bud McSuley said his team is excited about playing in a new league. The Indians will be playing their first year in the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
"So obviously, we've got a target on our back," he said. "Each game is going to be a rivalry."
Coaches Alt Altomare of Leetonia and Bob Spaite of Columbiana shared different beliefs on the Tri-County race.
"Columbiana is the team," Altomare explained.
Spaite countered, "There are five or six teams on the edge of doing great things." Spaite conceded, however, "We'll be pretty good, I think."
John Turco of Kennedy Catholic has some big linemen, perhaps picking up some of the 52 pounds that the coach has lost over the past 14 weeks.
Tough schedule: After listening to Mark Lyden of Wilson talk about his team's schedule, none of the coaches complained. Lyden's Redmen face Boardman, Ursuline, Poland, Canfield and Chaney in the first five weeks. They also face Massillon.
South Range's Dan Yeagley noted that his team returns 19 starters, and perhaps LaBrae's Dave Zelenak summed things up best when he joked, "I think this is a great night. It gives us a chance to whine and cry and tell some lies."
The event was sponsored by WFMJ and Arby's.