EAST LIVERPOOL - The Ohio football team held a walk-through and a short practice session Thursday at the East Liverpool practice field as the Buckeyes made their final preparations for the 33rd- annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic Football Game at 7:30 p.m. today at Springfield High School in New Middletown.
"We're ready to go," Ohio and Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor said. "The kids had a good day today. The thing you look for is mental sharpness on a Thursday. I think they had it.
"We had very few mistakes about anything, especially on special teams where you have to make sure you have enough kids in. The backups knew who the backups were.
"I thought we had a crisp walk-through on offense. I thought the defense did their checks. I feel like we are well-prepared, and we are ready to go."
After practice Tuesday, the players voted on the four team captains and they are Steubenville's William Houst and Leshawn Luke, Indian Creek's David Kemp and Western Reserve's Tyler Powell. Connor said the four players chosen stepped up as team leaders throughout the past two weeks.
"They have been leaders," he said. "Obviously, they got the kids vote. It's a peer thing. They did a good job at practice, and they won the respect of the kids."
The four captains led the other players during their stretching prior to the start of the walk-through.
Though it is an all-star game, Connor and his assistant coaches treated practice the same way during the high school season at Indian Creek.
"That's how it was," Connor said. "We treated today like it is, and I told the kids it is the same thing for tomorrow - it's Friday night. They have gone through a lot of Friday nights in high school football, and they should treat it the same way.
"They should have the same special feeling they had every Friday night when they were playing for their home school. That is the same feeling they should have when they represent the state of Ohio tomorrow."
As is the case in all sports, the players are expected to be both nervous and excited as game time draws near today.
"I hope that it is that nervous energy that kind of gets you going, that adrenaline flow that I am sure they have had week in and week out when they were representing their high schools," Connor said.
"I think the biggest thing for them tomorrow is to play like I told them, 'to play fast, to play with emotion and realize the importance of the game, and to know that for a lot of these kids it could be their last game and if it is not it should be something they can look on as they go onto college football."
Twelve of players on the Ohio team are from schools within the OVAC, and they have more of a rivalry with the schools from West Virginia than the ones from Pennsylvania. Connor said he thinks the players also have a rivalry with Pennsylvania.
"I think once you step on the field whoever the team is you are playing becomes your rival, maybe not in the long sense that you have played them for 50 years, but a rival is the person you are going against that day," he said. "I think they should be excited about the chance to play another game of high school football, and to be excited like I told them that they were thought of in such high regard that their coach nominated them for this game."
After practice, the players walked up the hill to East Liverpool to take part in the customary steak fry.
For all of those involved, game time can not get here fast enough.
"We're just counting down the hours," Connor said. "As we always say down there, the hay is in the barn. Right now, you hope that everybody has absorbed all of the information they need, and now you just hope with their adrenaline, their emotion and their pride that they will go out and represent Ohio in the best possible way they can Friday night."