CANFIELD - Before the past three seasons, Warren G. Harding boys soccer coach Tilden Tatebe has taken his Raiders to the Canfield Cardinal Classic for more than just a chance to scrimmage against other teams.
Both his varsity and junior varsity teams participate in the Hudson and Howland summer leagues, respectively, meaning that Tatebe and his staff have a decent idea of the conditioning and the play of his guys.
Now, he sees the one-day event as a way to bring his team closer together.
"We love coming to Canfield," Tatebe said. "What's nice is we bring both our JV and varsity, and we're here for half the day. It's a nice bonding experience. We can hang out under the trees, one team supporting the other.
"It really helps set us up for the season."
While the bonding is nice, many other of the area coaches took the opportunity to find out more about their teams at Canfield High School on Saturday.
Lakeview girls coach Shawn Varley brought some of the younger players with him to see how the team might look in one month's time.
"It gives me the opportunity to see how they might possibly gel in a few weeks because the season starts in the beginning of August," Varley said. "We brought about 20-something girls out here today, so that's what we're doing - to see where we're at."
With more than 50 teams in both boys and girls divisions participating in the Cardinal Classic, the level of competition will give many schools a good measuring stick to use.
Under first-year coach Justin Deraway, the Badger boys took on East Liverpool, Austintown Fitch and a team from Canfield, schools much larger than most of the ones the Braves will play during the season. Badger only had 11 players with it, meaning it couldn't take advantage of the unlimited substitution allowed in the scrimmage.
"Competition breeds excellence," Deraway said. "Playing these good teams - Canfield, Austintown, East Liverpool - can only help us come conference time. It teaches our guys that there's always somebody that can beat you in any game. Sometimes they forget that, but it really helps these guys to get used to good competition."
Howland girls coach Joe Megyesi pointed to not only the level of competition but also the draw of teams from outside the area as one of the best aspects of the Cardinal Classic. With teams like St. Vincent-St. Mary, Revere, Stow, East Liverpool and Columbus Academy traveling to Canfield, area schools don't have to play against teams they see on a consistent basis. Megyesi's Tigers squared off against Twinsburg, Brunswick and St. Vincent-St. Mary.
"I like it because (Canfield coach and tournament director) Phil (Simone) does a good job of us not playing anybody local," Megyesi said. "I get to see everybody outside (of the area) instead of playing the same ones that we usually do throughout the season. It's a nice tournament."
As for the conditioning aspect of the game, the heat and the number of matches took an effect on the players, no matter the time of day. The Lakeview girls played four 40-minute matches, and Varley said it showed by the end of the day.
That's something for him to work on once the season starts.
"The heat's a factor," Varley said. "We're completely gassed. I'm trying to get the girls focused on letting the ball do the work instead of running their tails off."