STEUBENVILLE - Reno Saccoccia knows his 32nd Big Red football team will have "to be prepared" week in and week out during the 2014 season.
"Our schedule is very demanding," Saccoccia said during the 18th annual Lew Giammarco Appreciation and Football Kickoff Dinner held Sunday. "We have teams on the schedule that are up and coming and have been great the last couple of years. We also have opponents that have been great forever. We will have a challenge every week.
"I'm proud of our kids for accepting this challenge. I feel we can be a very good Division IV football team and we'll be playing schools from all levels. Our challenge is to be prepared."
Big Red will open its season on Aug. 28 when Cleveland John F. Kennedy invades Death Valley. The meeting will be the 14th all-time between the Eagles, who went 5-5 last year, and Big Red. Steubenville has won the previous 13 games.
Cincinnati Glen Este will provide the Week 2 opposition followed by Youngstown Ursuline and Brooke.
Big Red's only road trip of the season (Saccoccia and company will head to Massillon) is set for Week 5.
The second half of the season features home games with Athens, St. Joseph from Hammonton, N.J. (a Saturday night game), Obama Prep from Pittsburgh, Wheeling Park and the Canada Football Prep Academy.
Half of the 2014 opponents (Ursuline, Massillon, Athens, St. Joseph and Wheeling Park) earned playoff berths in 2013. Obama Prep captured the Pittsburgh city league title.
Saccoccia's 2013 squad finished 9-5, bowing to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the Division IV state semifinals.
At Sunday's dinner, sponsored by the Big Red Boosters Club, the veteran coach took time to introduce the senior members of his team.
"I'm not sure what this senior class to offer yet," Saccoccia stated. "I haven't been with them when the chips are down.
"I know that to be successful in football, you need a burning desire. The kind of desire these guys have will be decided in the next couple of weeks during double sessions. You can always tell who your leaders will be during two-a-days."
Saccoccia noted the challenge associated with summer double sessions is "to love the preparation."
"When it comes time to prepare, you have to enjoy the preparation," he commented. "I tell our guys there are 750 some teams in Ohio that are going to be preparing to be champions.
"Talent isn't enough to win championships. There are teams with talent and teams with talent that prepare. I feel we have that talent to win but that will depend on what our guys have in their stomachs and hearts."
He pointed out several of the seniors-to-be showed "a positive attitude at the end of last year when we got healthy and went on a three-game winning streak."
"If you're going to be great, you must be willing to pay the price," Saccoccia told his seniors. "It's going to be tough but I'm sure you can do it."