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Every team has something to build on

November 1, 2011
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor ( , The Herald-Star

Way too many people whine about the teams that are not on Big Red's and Madonna's football schedules.

Well, let Youngstown Ursuline be the poster team for why you all need to zip it.

The Irish, the three-time defending Ohio Division V state champions, are turning in their gear because of the gauntlet of high school football schedules - playing and losing to the Red Lion Christian Academy, Mentor, Mentor Lake Catholic, Big Red, Lakewood St. Edward's and St. Peter's Prep of New Jersey.

Those teams went 44-12.

Only Big Red and Mentor Lake Catholic were holdovers from the previous season.

Finally, here are my short takes on the 11 high school football teams we cover:

Big Red: Even though others tried to put other football programs ahead of the best program in the valley, and one of the best in the state, Steubenville continues to improve each week.

The 10-0 regular season is only one step in the process toward the ultimate goal.

But, the ultimate goal cannot be reached without 100 percent effort on every block, every tackle, every run, every pass and everything that makes a top program even better.

The new Nike uniforms were really nice, but uniforms don't win games or make plays.

Brooke: This team has played some really good football after outside distractions either went away or were finally tuned out. I have no idea how the Bruins were able to play football with all the people jumping off the bandwagon so early in the season.

Yet, here they are, 5-4, winning four in a row, with a chance to make the playoffs with a victory Friday night.

I have never seen so much negativity around a program that went 24-4 the past two years, with two trips to the West Virginia Class AAA state championship game.

Buckeye Local: Seriously, can we please stop with the "Panthers need a change at the top" mentality. The 6-4 finish was three plays away from 9-1 and a playoff date this Friday. Not every team in the state can say that.

How about throwing all the negative stuff in the nearest garbage can and truly get behind this program? A novel concept for some adults, obviously. Last time I checked building a program takes more than two years and there is a good group of playings returning for 2012.

Let the coaches coach. Let the players play and let the fans watch and cheer.

Catholic Central: After three wins in the previous two seasons, the Crusaders finished with three this year and showed they are a team to reckon with, with a returning quarterback, who will be a three-year starter, as well as a returning three-year starter at wide receiver, along with about 30 other players.

Central still has some things to work on, as do all programs, but it averaged about 26 points in the final three games. Expect things to only get better in the program as the Crusaders now get a full offseason program with the head coach.

Edison: The Wildcats finished the season with five losses in a row and that should only fuel the players to work harder in the offseason to make sure that doesn't happen again.

We learn a lot from wins, but tend to learn more from losses.

Edison players should remember last year and this year, learn from both, and work to be a better football team in 2012. The numbers are up in the program, which makes competition better and your team better.

Harrison Central: I don't think there is a coaching manual for what the Huskies went through this year. You finished 4-6 in a year that had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster ride at Six Flags.

You now understand that football is not life, but a large part of it and that football helps you get through parts of that life that you never thought you would have to face.

Indian Creek: After a 2-8 season in 2008, coach Andrew Connor decided to make some changes.

He instituted a new conditioning and weightlifting program and promptly lost about two dozen players from the program. And, that was fine with him.

If you wanted to play football for the Redskins, he figured, you would either be a part of the new, tougher rules, or sit in the stands on Friday nights.

The numbers in the program have grown, and so have the wins - 6-4, 6-4 and 8-2.

You now get to play in Week 11 for the first time since 1997 and you should be really proud of that. You have shown the younger players in the program that excuses are not acceptable.

You have become better teammates to each other for for each other and it shows.

Madonna: This week it is all about who is in uniform. You cannot dwell on who is not in uniform. That is wasted energy because you can do nothing about which players are on the sidelines and not in the huddle.

I guarantee you that Clay-Battelle is not throwing a pity party for you guys. They don't care.

They want to send you guys home with a loss and a long road trip. They want a win to lock up a home playoff game next week.

Well, guess what - so should you guys.

I don't know for sure, but I like your chances of hosting a game in the postseason at Jimmy Carey Stadium with a win this week against the 8-1 CeeBees.

Last week was a very good team win against a good Toronto squad.

Yet, last week is over.

Oak Glen: What a wonderful season as 9-1 is an excellent achievement.

You played who was in front of you and beat 90 percent of them. You did what you had to do and now you get this bye week to see where you will go in the playoffs.

Playing a game at home would be really nice, but it is now out of your hands and you need to be prepared to go wherever it is Week 12 sends you.

People are still skeptical of your record, but let them.

Do not apologize for the teams you beat. Hold your heads high for a wonderful season and get ready to participate in the postseason - a goal of yours since Day 1 of conditioning.

Toronto: Congratulations on your first winning season in eight years.

After losing your first four games last season under the direction of then-new coach Eric Meek, you have gone 10-6 and that is good football.

You now understand what it takes to be on the winning side of football games and hopefully you also understand that taking that next big step is what it will take to make it to Week 11.

That has to be done through hard work and discipline both on and off the football field.

You must make a pledge to your teammates that you will do everything in your power to make the program that much better in 2012.

Weir High: No one feels sorry for you. At all.

This week is all about looking at yourselves in the mirror and your teammates in the eyes and play each down, make each block or tackle with every ounce of energy you have in your body.


That hasn't been done this year.

Playing hard is all about attitude and being 0-9 is no reason for not playing hard.

Agreed, it's easier when you're 10-0 or 8-2 and heading to the playoffs. But, losing is not an excuse to phone it in.

Show some pride. Show some heart.

The juniors, sophomores and freshmen should learn from this season of what it takes to win football games because not one team is going to hand you anything.

The returning players should fully understand now that working hard is one thing, but working harder helps teams begin the season 2-0 and not 0-2. There is no guarantee that working hard breeds success, it just makes success easier to obtain.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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