Area standouts develop cohesion during practice

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Warren G. Harding quarterback Lynn Bowden takes the snap as Niles’ Joey Kendall, right, provides protection during a recent Jack Arvin Classic practice in McDonald.

McDONALD — The word chemistry is one often talked about by coaches in all sports. It’s either the missing link or the focal point that determines success or failure.

In high school, players generally have years to work with coaches and teammates to develop the right balance of competition and friendship, and even then the right cohesiveness isn’t always formed. So, when a group of roughly 30 players is thrown together and given three weeks to prepare for a game against some of the best competition they’ve ever seen, the results may seem more chemically imbalanced than anything else.

Yet that’s not the case for one team, according to players and coaches of the annual Jack Arvin All-Star Classic football game, which is set for 7 p.m., Thursday at Hubbard Memorial Stadium.

“I think everyone tries to come out and show who they are as a player and as a teammate, but with the group we have here, we’ll be all right with the chemistry,” said linebacker Stephen Baugh, a recent Howland graduate playing for Trumbull County, which opposes a mixture of schools from Mahoning and Columbiana counties in the Arvin. “A couple new kids keep coming in, but once it gets closer to the (game), we’re all good competitors and we’ll work together to get it done.”

That may seem surprising to some.

Most of the players involved were some of the best on their respective high school teams, and sharing the limelight is a new experience — one that some players may not like. Trumbull County coach Dan Williams, the longtime McDonald mentor, said he hasn’t come across any issues. The only star-struck situation is how impressed most of them are by former Warren G. Harding star and soon-to-be Kentucky Wildcat, Lynn Bowden.

“Not at all,” said Williams of any problems between players. “Everyone’s in awe of Lynn Bowden, of course, including the coaching staff. He’s a special talent.”

That could be said about almost anyone on the team. The roster is loaded with standouts from all over, and that’s part of the reason former Niles quarterback Tyler Srbinovich said there aren’t any issues as far as who gets to start or play a certain position. He said everyone is enjoying watching and competing against players they heard about or watched on TV.

“It’s exciting,” Srbinovich said. “Playing against a lot of these guys, and knowing what kind of talent they have, it’s fun coming together as one team and working together to win a game.”

He added that taking a smaller role is something many of them are going to have to get used to once they become freshmen in college. He remembers the steps he had to take a few years ago when he entered high school.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “It happens to everyone. Coming into high school from middle school, you have to earn your spot. Going into college ball, you have to do some of the same things, so it’ll help me get used to it.

“Coming together with guys on offense like (Howland’s) Tyriq (Ellis) and Lynn, it’s like a whole new team. We have to work together.”

That doesn’t mean guys aren’t going hard. Former Howland lineman Ryan Jones said everyone got pretty physical in the trenches during the first day of actual hitting. He admitted that while guys are part of the game because they want to have fun, their competitiveness can take over.

“All of our emotions got up,” Jones said. “We were going about game speed, which is pretty hard. There were no fights or anything, but everyone wants to be the best out there. In the end, we’re all teammates and we recognize that. Once the emotions get out, we kind of realize, ‘Hey, we’re teammates. Let’s kind of pull it back a little bit.’ “

It’s an experience Jones is glad he can be a part of after years of a different brand of football.

“Coach (Dominic) Menendez nominated me,” Jones said, “and I was real honored because I know kids who played in (the Arvin) in the past, and they say it’s one of the funnest experiences they’ve had, and up till now, it’s been one of the funnest. It’s different playing football and not getting yelled at — playing for fun basically. It’s nice. I like it a lot.”