It finally feels like spring, doesn't it? I could get used to these bright, 70-degree nights. Perfect weather for catch in the backyard, a quick nine after a tough day at work, or any other outside activity that screams springtime.
The May flowers are blooming; the baseball and softball tournaments are looming. But I want something else.
Give me a muddy field, aluminum (or wooden) bleachers and a concession stand pepperoni roll.
On a Friday night.
I want Script Ohio at Hubbard and raucous student section at Poland. Let's check out the renovated Bo Rein Stadium in Niles and climb the never-ending stairs at Stambaugh.
How will Howland replace De'Veon Smith? Will Girard bounce back? Can Brookfield sustain its recent success?
Is it possible for Jackson-Milton to make the playoffs for the first time ever, let alone win a regular-season game?
These are questions I can't wait to be answered.
As much as I love summer cookouts and pool parties, I'd trade them in for parking lot tailgates and cornhole.
I've missed football. I've missed sitting in crammed press boxes with big-wig boosters and biased statisticians. Ever since I watched Ursuline fall to Kirtland in the Division V regional final at Aurora in late November, I couldn't wait to flash-forward to early August when the sun is scorching and the water troughs are overflowing during two-a-days.
In Larry Kempe's mind, those days are already here.
"There really is no offseason," said the veteran coach who is entering his second year leading Ursuline. "My mind never takes a break from it."
Like many teams across the Valley, Ursuline has started weight training three days a week.
"We have a group of talented young guys who can fit in right away," Kempe said. "We're putting in the work now so we don't blow a 24-point lead in the playoffs again."
Lakeview's Tom Pavlansky, entering his 14th season as a head coach, keeps busy by coaching the Bulldogs track team in the spring. He, too, has young guys coming in for the fall to replace 14 seniors.
"It'll be an interesting year for us," he said. "We obviously want to always improve and I think we'll be back at a high level in the fall."
Lakeview's last playoff appearance was 2010.
"The season will be here before we know it," Pavlansky added.
So, while you're planning vacations to Disney World and lounging in the hammock, I will be too. But, in my mind I'm going to Mollenkopf Stadium.
Yeah, Memorial Day isn't even here yet, nor is the Fourth of July or the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Heck, kids are still in school. But it's never too early to think about those Friday Night Lights.
In just 115 short days, they'll be burning bright again.