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Ultimate challenge awaits Wildcats in opener

The wins were few for Springfield High School’s 1-9 football team last year. What the Wildcats aren’t lacking is the eternal optimism of coach Eric Gillespie and a potential program-defining season opener.

“We are extremely excited about the potential of our 2013 football team and the opportunity we have to reap the benefits of all of our offseason hard work,” said Gillespie when asked about his second season with the Wildcats.

That’s coach-speak for it can only get better. Springfield opens its season by playing Trotwood-Madison at 6 p.m. on Friday in the opener of a Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown doubleheader at Welcome Stadium. The Rams have steam-rolled to three straight Division II state title games, winning in 2011. A good showing by the Wildcats could go a long way in how their season plays out.

The high school football regular season begins this week, but already there have been several noticeable changes:

  • Audibles, numbers and hand signals are sideline code for every team. There’s another buzzword that’s becoming just as prevalent: Concussion. Backed by the NFL and supported by the National Federation of State High School Associations, teams, coaches and trainers will be more vigilant in diagnosing and early symptoms. A spike in players sitting out practice and games could result.
  • A seventh division has been added, including a super D-I that features less teams (72) than the other divisions (105-108) and is made up of the state’s largest schools with the greatest boys enrollment.

What hasn’t changed is the strength of the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division. Tecumseh, Shawnee and Tippecanoe all won eight games in 2012 and all qualified to the postseason. Add Mad River champ Urbana and the CBC sent a robust four teams to the playoffs.

Matching that kind of playoff success is becoming the norm for CBC teams.

If West Liberty-Salem is to continue its run of Ohio Heritage Conference supremacy, it’ll be with new head coach Dan McGill. He succeeds Toby Smith, who joins the CBC in hopes of reviving Bellefontaine’s program.

The regular season will wrap up in early November and state champs will be crowned five weeks later at Canton and Massillon. That’ll end a long and celebrated state title run for Stark County. Next year championship weekend moves to Ohio State University in Columbus.

Let the games begin.

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