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Green football gets off on right foot after roller-coaster summer

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
The Suburbanite

GREEN Football schedules are typically the product of years of work, negotiations and relationships.

Teams have most of their slate determined by their league games and although they don't always know which order their league foes will appear in on their schedule for a given season, six or seven opponents are already known before a single date is made official.

The remaining games are nonleague contests and schools often have multi-year contracts with one another setting out home-and-away arrangements that allow them to know who they'll be playing outside their league a year or more in advance.

Now, take all of that information, throw it out the window, toss the chaos of a global pandemic and its widespread health and societal impacts into the mix and try to cram all of the schedule-making into a matter of days and you have this season for the Green Bulldogs.

"It was pretty crazy ... every day it was something different. From June through August we had about nine different versions of calendars for the season I sent out to our parents and kids," second-year Green head coach Mark Geis said.

His team ultimately took the field for the first time in Week 2, hosting former Suburban League rival Tallmadge and earning a 27-20 win that wasn't on the schedule at all just a few weeks earlier. Putting together a schedule with Summit County health officials recommending teams not start their seasons until Oct. 1 and Green Local officials initially electing to adhere to those recommendations wasn't easy, but more plot twists were in store.

"After the OHSAA made the announcement about the six-game regular season and the Federal League said, 'Let's get our schedule done,' our district initially didn't feel comfortable saying we're going to play games with the Summit County decision," Geis said. "So we got left off the (league) schedules and 10 days later, things changed when (Gov. Mike) DeWine announced that he was going to allow football to proceed."

Following DeWine's announcement, Green officials decided that they would proceed with a full football season – or as much of one as could be assembled on a short notice. Some local districts, such as Coventry and Springfield, had their slate filled with league games. It was a matter of persistence and being willing to cast a wide net for Green athletic administrators and coaches, knowing there would be a lot of no's before getting enough opponents to say yes to a game.

"I would say it was upwards of 40 to 50 different schools we talked to," Geis said. "Some already had their schedules set, but it was a lot of texts to coaches and emails to different districts."

Some of those messages also went to fellow Federal League schools, who were able to point Green to schools they knew to be looking for games. The results, so far, include Westlake and Brush, two unfamiliar opponents for the Bulldogs. They'll battle Westlake at home and Brush on the road, with a Week 6 game against Lake the first Friday in October previously on the schedule.

There are also tentative plans to play some of the remaining Federal League teams after the playoffs if both they and Green are eliminated from the postseason. That means, even with the season underway, the schedule still isn't a finished product for the Bulldogs. The remaining open dates on the slate could be filled if any teams have games canceled due to an opponent having to withdraw from the contest due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Still, after sitting out Week 1 with no opponent, getting back onto the field on a Friday night was an exciting occasion for Green.

"Our coaches just appreciated seeing our kids out there and I told them I felt like we were 1-0 before playing a game just to be able to make it to this point," Geis said. "Our players did all of the right things to be able to play, our coaches and parents and administrators all did the right things for us to be able to play."

Having to watch other teams play in Week 1 without having a game was tough for the Bulldogs, Geis admitted, but now the season is underway and there's no looking back. Yes, there is the oddity of not playing for a league title - Green doesn't have a full slate of Federal League games so it won't have a chance to vie for the title - and the program has a junior class that went undefeated and won a league title in freshman football two seasons ago, but the old football cliche of looking to go 1-0 each week has been pushed to the forefront this fall.

Since all teams will make the playoffs, that normal goal isn't on the table either, meaning each game is more of a standalone entity than normal. Combined with a senior group looking to make its mark in its final season in the program, the strong junior class and underclassmen on the roster have their eyes on a winning season and trying to advance in the playoffs next month. Add in the Week 6 tilt against geographic and league rival Lake and the Bulldogs still have a lot to play for in the weeks ahead.