By Tom Williams
With his senior year under way, Austintown Fitch lineman Billy Price can’t wait for Friday night’s lights to illuminate.
Asked how he feels on the sideline when the national anthem ends and the ball is about to be booted, the future Ohio State player said, “Electric.
“If you’re not bouncing out of your pads, jumping around, then you’re in the wrong sport,” said Price, who measures 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds. “That opening kickoff means that you are going. That first snap, that first play of the ball — defense, offense, no matter what it is — it’s crazy, it’s insane, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
No matter whether the Falcons receive or kick off, Price will be on the field. He’s one of the rare Division I high school football players who plays offense and defense.
“He’s not just a defensive player,” Falcons line coach Doug Barnhart said, noting that Price will play defense for the Buckeyes. “We play the best five on both sides of the ball.”
Since making his verbal commitment to Ohio State six months ago, Price has been getting ready for his final season. He was happy when the recruiting calls, emails and what-have-yous evaporated after his decision.
“It felt great because I’m kind of a low-key guy when it comes to publicity,” Price said. “I’m not that attention-craving kind of person. After I got the verbal commitment out of the way, it made it a lot easier on my heart and mind, especially when it comes down to publicity.”
Barnhart said Price deserves what he’s earned.
“He’s a great kid, a dynamite person,” Barnhart said. “He’s not cocky, he works real hard, That means a lot to you when you are coaching. He’s going to go places because of his upbringing.”
A former basketball and baseball player, Price’s other varsity sport is track and field. He finished seventh in the state in Division I in the discus.
A month ago, he began practicing for his final high school season. Tuesday, he was back in the classroom as Austintown opened it schools more than a week before the Canfield Fair.
“It’s a little weird,” said Price of the early start, “but it’s good to get back and see all the familiar faces, all the girls and all your buds and stuff.
“I’ve been with these guys since the end of July, so it kinda gets a little old seeing each other [so much]. To get some fresh faces in there makes it a little better.”
So do Fridays. Price admits he has trouble concentrating on schoolwork on game days.
“I apologize to my teachers ahead of time,” Price said. “I’m thinking about down blocks and kick outs, destroying B charges.”
Price isn’t totally zoned out — his 3.5 grade-point average suggests otherwise.
And he won’t be majoring in underwater basket-weaving in Columbus. Price said his target is the Fisher College of Business, with a minor in communications.
“I enjoy talking to people and being around people,” Price said. “Exactly what specific major for the business field, I’m still undecided.”
Barnhart said the Falcons use Price as a defensive end.
“He’s also our long snapper, he’s a tackle and he can play guard on offense. He is a talent and we are going to tap into it,” Barnhart said. “But he has to go every time, give us every thing he’s got. And that’s tough — it’s hard to go both ways. We’re going to spell him if we can.”
For now, the focus is on the Falcons’ second season as an independent football team. When Fitch pulled out of the Federal League and joined the All-American Conference in 2011, it was for every sport except football.
This season, the Falcons’ football schedule has some new and old highlights. Archrival Boardman and Lake are the only Federal League teams still on the schedule. Cardinal Mooney, East and Warren Harding are the local opponents.
The others are Massillon, Akron Hoban, Brunswick, Barberton and Marion Harding.
“Lot of tough competition — we open with one of the premier Division I programs from this area,” said Price of Warren Harding. “It’s going to be tough competition all the way down the line.”
Price said he’s motivated to do well for his school and community.
“Everybody is getting hyped for this game and it’s a great feeling,” Price said. “You have your whole school talking [about it], every single teacher is talking about it, asking you questions in and out of class.
“It’s such a prize, especially in our community.”
He admitted it’s hard not to look ahead to Week 10.
“Mooney week is going to be crazy [because of] the tradition and it’s local,” Price said. “It just makes the stakes all the higher, community pride all the higher.
“The game atmosphere is going to be [wild].”
Barnhart said the competition will be a good test for Price.
“He has the body, he has the god-given tools,” Barnhart said. “He just has to [put] the motor and the effort together. I guarantee he wants to do it. He’ll get it done — we’re going to make it happen.
“Right now, we’re putting all together. We’re not there quite yet so I’m looking forward to him having a good game this week.”
Barnhart said stamina is the key.
“He needs to step his conditioning up, he needs to play every play full-go or we have to do a better job as coaches of figuring when he should be in and when not,” Barnhart said. “Once he does that, he’s going to be a sight to see.”
The Falcons will manage Price’s time on the field.
“We don’t like to pull him off the field on defense [but] we’re going to limit his time in certain scenarios,” Barnhart said. “We’re trying to go as fast as we can on both offense and defense so our objective is [platooning].
“But his talents override that goal because we need him on the field.”
Asked which side of the ball he enjoys most, Price said, “Defense, because I can mess things up.
“You get to pick where the offensive guy is going. If you’re a dominant guy, you get to your stunt and you blow it up. Once you blow things up — the offensive line, the offensive scheme, the timing is off — then you let the other 10 brothers who you are playing on the field with get to the ball.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that you helped out on that play to destroy it.”