The District 10 high school football schedule takes some time to develop. So before the Conneaut Area Senior High merger was complete, most, if not all, schedules had already been finalized that included a Week 1 date between Girard and Conneaut Valley.
But when the lights kick on at Girard Stadium tonight, it will not be the red and black of Single-A Conneaut Valley on the opposite end of the field. Instead, the Yellow Jackets will be getting the first-ever look at the Class AAA Conneaut Eagles, 53 players strong.
“We scheduled Conneaut Valley,” Girard head coach Jim Funk said. “This is definitely not the Single-A team we thought we were getting. They look very talented.
“For what in some ways is a new team, they seem very disciplined. They’re well-schemed. They mesh together like a team that has been a team for a while.”
With that said, Funk had to alter a few things in preparation for the Eagles.
“We were expecting Conneaut Valley,” he said. “Then the merger took place and that really changed our focus for what we thought we were going to see. Conneaut seems loaded. They are well-balanced. They have size and speed all over the field.”
Facing big schools, though, is nothing new to Girard. The Yellow Jackets play in an all Class AA region alongside the likes of North East, Harbor Creek and Fairview — just to name a few. And at first Girard thought it may be able to use that experience and a few other things to its advantage over the Eagles.
“We thought, ‘All right. We have a bigger team. Everything is just starting to settle in for them,’” Funk said. “They’ll be disorganized and it will be a hectic first year for them.
“That does not seem to be the case at all.”
Conneaut is excited about the new opportunity. Head coach Pat Gould said he can tell the kids are tired of practice and ready to get going.
“They want to get the season started and rolling and get through the school year the best they can,” Gould said.
The Eagles are coming off a pretty good effort at a scrimmage in Hickory, according to Gould.
“Hickory was pretty good and we played well,” Gould said. “They are a good team. I don’t think they gave carries to their big runners as much as they would in a regular game, but we held our own against them.
“The kids got to play against a quality team and they made a lot of good plays for themselves. I was impressed.”
But will the excitement of playing their first football game get the best of them? How will they react?
“I’m hoping for us to come out and play the brand of football we’ve been talking about for two weeks,” Gould said. “We have to come out and make plays. Individuals are going to have to make some big plays.”
It is, after all, going to be a historical night for the Eagles.
“It’s pretty neat,” Gould said. “I’m hoping it’s a good night for the boys. They are real excited. There hasn’t been an issue with who is who. They know they are doing something for the communities. It will be a historical night.”
And it’s a night the Yellow Jackets, too, are looking forward to being a part of.
“I hope 30 years from now when they are talking about their high school, they are talking about a great game between two good teams,” Funk said. “We’re excited. We’re interested to see what they have and what we have and get the season started.”