Football is in the air today

Frankly, I was a bit confused on my drive into work Friday.

Where was my football statistics sheet? Why was there a cool breeze? What game was I going to cover tonight?

The chill in the air made it seem like mid-to-late September instead of early August. So much for the overhyped global warming.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association gives the go-ahead for all high schools in this area to officially start football practice today. There’s been conditioning. All the players have met. They know each other, and they’re familiar with each others’ tendencies.

Expectations. There’s plenty around Trumbull County.

Start with Hubbard. They have arguably the best offensive tandem in the county – junior running back L.J. Scott and senior wide receiver Darnell Tate.

According to most area prognosticators, including this one, the Eagles are the team to beat in the All-American Conference, American Division. Sure, there’s Canfield, Howland, Poland and Niles, but Hubbard has the “it” factor.

Compound the duo of Scott and Tate with the field turf being installed at Hubbard Memorial Stadium, and opposing coaches, especially those who are just finding out about the Eagles’ new playing surface, might let out an expletive.

Then there’s Warren G. Harding. Second-year coach Steve Arnold desperately wants the Raiders to continue last season’s success.

LeShun Daniels plays at Iowa. Jalyn Powell is at Michigan State. Just because those two extraordinary talents aren’t part of the Raiders’ fold this season, success doesn’t die inside the confines of Mollenkopf Stadium.

Lamar Carmichael returns as the team’s quarterback and fullback John Coleman is back as well.

Harding will be prepared for 2013. Don’t worry about that. Week 1 at Austintown Fitch will be the feature game on the docket.

Here’s more storylines to watch:

John F. Kennedy – Chad and Carl Zallow. The two speedsters displayed their wares during track and field season – winning a combined three Division III state championships. Chad, who claimed an AAU national runner-up finish in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles this weekend in Detroit, is a deep threat for the Eagles. Carl, who won the 100-meter state title in Columbus, plans to slice through defenses this season.

LaBrae – Peyton Aldridge passed on playing football to concentrate on his bread-and-butter sport – basketball. The 6-foot-7 Aldridge has a plethora of collegiate offers so far. Justin Jenkins, who was the Vikings leading rusher last season, takes over for Aldridge. LaBrae’s offense changes with a multi-versed quarterback like Jenkins.

Niles – The Red Dragons made the playoffs in 2012 under first-year coach Brian Shaner. Niles, which like Hubbard, has new field turf, feels its heading to the playoffs once again. The Red Dragons will put the ball in the air more often this year. They have many targets in which to choose from.

Howland – For the first year since the late 1990s, Dick Angle won’t be roaming the Tigers’ sidelines. Dominic Menendez, Angle’s longtime assistant, takes over as the team’s mentor. Also, Michigan freshman De’Veon Smith won’t be rumbling out of the backfield for Howland. Will the Tigers be able to put together their seventh straight winning regular season?

There’s plenty more excitement to come. It all starts to come together as the area teams strap on their helmets for today’s practice sessions.