It’s not as if Nick Bozzo hasn’t earned ample playing time with the Centerville High School football team. He has.
But as his final year with the Elks begins, it’s a whole new ball game.
“This is your last chance,” the senior running back reflected following Thursday’s first day of preseason practice. “This is it. It’s all I’ve been waiting for.”
Of course it is. Every high school senior football player can relate to that.
The Elks and several other area football teams began practice early this season. The Ohio High School Athletic Association allowed football teams to practice this week if their classes begin Aug. 16 or earlier. All other schools that begin classes afterward must wait until Monday to start football practice.
Girls tennis, golf, cross country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball also began preseason practice on Thursday.
Football players must undergo five acclimation days, a period designed to adjust to summer heat. But then it’s on, beginning with full contact drills. Most teams will have two preseason scrimmages. A third “jamboree” scrimmage also can be scheduled.
There is no advantage to starting practice early. When those schools are in class, other teams can still opt for two- or like Centerville, three-a-day sessions.
Looming at Centerville is “Midnight Hits” on Tuesday. All Wee Elks, middle school and freshman teams will practice at the stadium that day, followed by the varsity at 10:45 p.m. At midnight, varsity hitting begins.
“The little kids love being around our players and the players love it,” said Centerville head coach Ron Ullery.
“You turn the lights on and put fans out watching it and your practice becomes twice as good as it usually is. Lights and fans; that’s all it takes.”
Youth games, food, raffles, a dunking booth, corn hole, Heater form the Dayton Dragons and hair painting all will be part of Centerville’s annual preseason event. Funds generated will help defray the cost of sending the Elks to Naples, Fla., for a Week 5 showdown. Naples advanced to Florida’s big-school state semifinals last season.
In contrast, Centerville slumped to 6-4 last season. That snapped a five-year streak of the Elks advancing to the Division I playoffs.
“Last year was a down year for us,” said Bozzo, who rushed for 535 yards as a junior and scored five touchdowns. “It just gets us going. We just need to make certain that we get to the playoffs and be successful.”
Area football teams that began preseason practice on Thursday: Alter, Carroll, Centerville, Dixie, Fairmont, Fenwick, Hamilton, Lehman Catholic, Middletown.