EAST LIVERPOOL - The practice was action packed for the players, coaches and the officials.
The Ohio football team had its fourth day - it's first in full pads - of practice at the East Liverpool practice field in preparation for the 33rd-annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic Football Game which is scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. June 29 at Springfield High School in New Middletown.
Thursday was also the third meeting of the participants of the Football Officials Academy which is being held at East Liverpool High School. The participants ended up taking an active role in the practice.
"It was nice having officials here," Ohio head coach Andrew Connor said. "They could go over the things with the kids. Again, it was just the technique part. They could watch for holding, watch for us jumping, things that maybe in the moment of emotion on the first day of hitting kind of calmed them down and made them realize there are still officials and you still want to play with controlled emotion next Friday. You just don't want to go out on the field and commit a lot of unforced errors, and I think it helped having the officials here today."
The participants of the academy watched the completion of the drills before the Buckeyes took a water break. The Ohio team returned to the field for a scrimmage, and the participants of the academy were able to take part in the scrimmage.
"I thought it went great," East Liverpool Assistant Principal Jay Kiger said. "What you worry about with young kids like that is them being overly tentative, and they really weren't.
"We saw some good things. They got right into the middle of it. The ball goes on the ground, and they go in jump right on top of the pile and start digging for the football and things like that, so we saw a lot of good things.
"We saw a lot mistakes that we have to correct. The idea behind this whole thing is to make sure they have the basics - the basic mechanics - so they understand when they go out and start working the little leagues and junior high and stuff like that that they know where they are supposed to be, they understand the rules and they get a pretty good idea of what officiating is all about. If they like it, they stick with it and see how far they can go with it."
Officials from Columbiana County began officiating the scrimmage, and then participants of the academy began working their way into the rotation.
"The biggest thing with these kids is to get them to stop thinking like players because a lot of these kids are only a year or two removed from playing on Friday nights, so they think like players," said Kiger. "You have got to get them out of that mindset of a player and get them to start thinking like an official, and that is really the hardest part of the whole thing."
Connor said practice was a little different due to the participation of the officials.
"It was because usually with practice you not only have to coach the practice you also have to do all of the spotting of the ball and the officiating and watching everything," he said. "With such a short time and now having the coaches devoting their time and attention to the little details of trying to run the offense and the defense it was nice having somebody else kind of take care of spotting the ball and stuff."
After the completion of the scrimmage, the Ohio team ran a little bit more before practice came to a close.
"We have got a great curriculum. We have great video that shows a lot of different examples of things that we are going to talk about up in the video room before we come down here on the field," Kiger said. "Tonight, it was about talking with players and talking with coaches. It was about how to get players and coaches on your side, and we saw a couple of these kids tonight step right in and say, 'Hey No. 33, back up a little bit.'
"It was about getting used to talking with the players, so yeah, it is so far so good. We are in week 3. We have got seven more to go."
Some of the participants of the academy were a little surprised about how hard some of the players were hitting each other.
"I heard a couple of the officials talking about how they can't believe how violent it was," Kiger said. "When you are watching from the stands and now you are 15 feet from it, it is a whole different world. Now, they have got a firsthand taste of, 'Wow, this gets pretty intense.'
"Coach Connor is great. He's letting us come down here and invade his practice. We appreciate it."