SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month

Springfield football set to begin new era

Staff Writer
The Suburbanite
The Springfield football program is set to kick its season off Friday against Cloverleaf under first-year head coach Dave Bosko.

SPRINGFIELD TWP. Two weeks before the start of the high school football season, the administration of Springfield Local Schools called an audible.

Prior to Aug. 14, the district was set to adhere to Summit County health guidelines recommending that football and other fall sports such as soccer postpone the start of their seasons until Oct. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On that date, the game plan changed and that news threw a massive curveball for squads such as the varsity football team, led by third-year head coach Dave Bosko.

"Up to Aug. 13, our district said there was no way we were going against the Summit County health guidelines. Our district said we were going to be doing online classes as well," Bosko said. "On Aug. 14, we switched, our school board voted to go back to in-person classes and they said we're playing contact sports (including football) in two weeks."

After a summer expecting a delayed start and the late-summer decree setting forth an Oct. 1 start to the season, Springfield coaches and players expected that they'd be sitting out the first few weeks of the season.

Like one neighboring district, Green, the expectation was one regular-season game on Oct. 2, followed by the start of a unique Ohio High School Athletic Association playoff setup in which all teams would make the postseason, a tournament beginning Oct. 9.

Green, along with several other Summit County schools, have reversed course and will open Sept. 4. Manchester is set to open its season Sept. 11.

Coventry and Lake will also open the season on Friday.

Getting the news that they – along with their seven fellow Metro Athletic Conference member schools – would start the season in just two weeks when they thought they had more than six weeks to prepare was a shock to the system, to say the least.

"We're going to do the best we can," Bosko said. "We open with Cloverleaf and they're a very good, well-coached team."

Cloverleaf is a team that has, in some ways, walked the tough road the Spartans are now traversing.

Just a few short seasons ago, the Colts were a winless team with zero, one or two-win seasons the norm in their recent past.

The past couple of seasons, their fortunes have begun to turn and for Springfield, turning that corner and becoming a winning program is the ongoing battle.

"The fact is that we've had one winning season this century ... (former head coach and current athletic director) Kevin Vaughn is the third-winningest coach in program history, but it's been tough for us as a program," Bosko said.

With just a handful of winning seasons in the past 40 years, there is no question that building a consistent program has been tough for the Spartans.

Although the district among the larger schools in the MAC in terms of overall high school enrollment, Bosko noted, the percentage of students who participate in sports is relatively low.

"We're trying to dig our way out. We have 26 kids and that's a challenge, but our kids are doing everything we ask of them," Bosko said.

A few sports, including track and bowling, have enjoyed success in recent seasons, but football poses unique challenges in part because it requires a much larger roster to be consistently competitive.

One change Bosko hopes will make a long-term impact is the switch from traditional football to flag football at the youth level

"With our youth program going to flag football, there's more excitement, it's cheaper and they're out there having fun," Bosko said.

That switch won't immediately shift the dynamic within the newly created MAC – comprised of the eight former members of the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division – but if more young athletes take part and continue playing football, it could boost the middle school and high school programs down the road.

Closing the gap with MAC powers such as Streetsboro and Woodridge figures to take time and as neighborhood rival Coventry has shown in recent seasons, narrowing that gap is one thing; overtaking the Bulldogs and Rockets to win a league title is possibly the toughest step.

Take what you can get

Although the season is starting sooner than expected, the Spartans are happy to be back on the field.

They know there is no guarantee how long they'll get to play or how many games they'll get in

"We know that we be shut down at any time, it we as a society don't get the pandemic under control and things get worse," Bosko said.

The precautions in place for games, such as this Friday's home opener against Cloverleaf, include allotting just two tickets per player and band member to allow parents, family members or others to attend games.

All tickets will be assigned before games and no tickets will be sold at the gate. Additionally, visiting teams will not use locker rooms, meaning they'll likely dress before leaving their own school and put their pads on at the stadium.

At halftime, both teams will stay outside and not go into the locker room. Halftime will be shortened to around 10 minutes, with Springfield planning to meet in the end zone during intermission.

It will be a season of changes and adaptation, so fittingly there will be new faces in new roles on the field.

One semi-returning starter is junior quarterback Michael Fuller, who broke into the lineup near the end of his sophomore season, but will enter the season as the starter for the first time in his high school career.

There figure to be bumps and learning moments along the way, but Bosko believes his new starting signal caller has a chance to be part of a shift in the offensive approach for which the program is know.

"He's worked his tail off and Springfield has been known more as being a running team offensively, but I think by the end of the year, people are going to surprised at what we're doing on offense," Bosko said, suggesting that more of a passing attack could be in the works for the Spartans.

With a small roster, being able to move the ball and score points through the air rather than trying to pound the ball on the ground could be a wise change of pace for Springfield.

In a year when change is a way of life across society, such a shift would fit right in.