Monday is the official start of the 2016-17 high school sports season. All fall sports — boys and girls soccer, boys and girls golf, girls tennis, volleyball, cross country and football — can begin practicing.
“(Monday) means we are ready to do what we enjoy doing full-time, no limitations, and really get down to work,” said first-year Blanchester varsity football coach Brandon Sammons. “The players got a taste of it with the 10 days we have with them in the summer but now we’ll find out who the football players are.”
Sammons at Blanchester, Scott Killen at Wilmington, Jeremy Yankey at East Clinton and Dan McSurley at Clinton-Massie will lead their teams this fall.
Yankey is in his second year as the EC varsity coach while Killen is in his third year at Wilmington. McSurley is entering his 21st season as the Clinton-Massie varsity football coach.
All four county schools will begin their respective varsity football seasons on Aug. 26.
“We’ve had a great summer,” said McSurley, who won state championships in 2012 and 2013. “Obviously every team is different but we return a bit on the defensive side of the ball.”
On offense, though, McSurley said it’ll be “back to old-school Clinton-Massie football.”
“We’re going to have some big backs and we’re going back to doing what we traditionally do and that’s run the football,” he said.
McSurley Clinton-Massie had its largest youth camp ever with more than 130 third through eighth graders participating.
Clinton-Massie was 11-2 last season.
At Alumni Field, Killen and the Hurricane are coming off a 7-3 campaign in 2015. In order to improve on that record, a young WHS squad will need to find itself quickly.
“We are very youthful,” Killen said. “This summer has given us a chance to see where the pieces may be going once we put the pads on.”
While Killen says the Hurricane are young at quarterback, running back, offensive receiver and defensive back, the offensive line is rock solid with experience. “The good thing is the offensive line will be veteran and I feel will be the core of our team,” he said.
Killen said the coaches are being “very basic right now, taking small steps” but believes the talent is there for a special season.
“When we get it, we will be fun to watch,” said Killen.
In Lees Creek, Yankey said the climb continues. After a 2-8 season in 2015, Yankey admits he is “still trying to build expectations” for the Astros.
“Some kids still don’t understand that you can’t turn in your equipment at the end of one season and then just show up in August,” he said. “If you’re going to be an athlete, you have to show up and work.”
Yankey said a good number of his EC football players have been working extremely hard, however the number isn’t 100 percent.
“I’m never going to be satisfied,” he admits. “If we have 49 of 50 showing up, I’m going to ask where’s that one?”
Yankey said one step forward is a Friday night lineup that will most likely include only upperclassmen.
“Looks like we’ll be playing all seniors and juniors on Fridays,” he said. “We really shouldn’t have any freshmen or sophomores taking the field.”
Of course, that’s barring injuries, which bit EC early (and often) with standout Anthony Osburn going down with a knee injury against Blanchester. Yankey also mentioned injuries to Brian Barnes and Joey Gray from last season.
“As long as we stay healthy, I think we’ll be competitive with anybody,” Yankey said.
At Barbour Memorial Field, Sammons takes over a Wildcats’ squad that was 3-7 in Jack O’Rourke Jr.’s final season.
“The kids are putting in a lot of good, hard work,” said Sammons, a former assistant coach at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. “They’re excited. I think they are ready for something different. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, just different.”
Sammons is pleased with a BHS roster that is “pushing 20 seniors” however he isn’t about to hand a job to a senior just because they are a senior.
“Just because a kid is a senior doesn’t mean they have dibs on a spot,” said Sammons. “We want kids who are coachable, who are passionate (about working). We will have younger guys who will challenge for a spot and force the older guys to put in the work and not just coast through.”