The next time somebody carries, throws, catches the ball or makes a tackle on a Friday night at Olentangy Berlin – it’ll be the first.
What was an empty field a couple years ago is now brick, mortar and a whole lot of double blue.
Starting up a new program was intriguing to new football coach Mark Nori.
“You don’t realize how much you have when you inherit a program,” Nori said. “A couple of days in a kid’s strap broke and we didn’t have a replacement kit. Well, that’s something that’s usually in your equipment room already. So, you’ve gotta order that.”
This is the first time Nori has built a program from the start. He does have experience rebuilding a program. He went 60-29 in eight seasons at Stow-Munroe Falls with four playoff appearances, including a trip to the final four.
Stow was 2-8 the year before he got the job.
“(Berlin) was an opportunity for me to build something new from the ground up,” Nori said. “A lot of times when head coaches take over programs – much like I took over Stow – the program is typically in disarray and they’re looking to rebuild. In this case – we didn’t have a hole to dig out of. An opportunity like this is hard to get.”
As was the case with Berlin’s Olentangy counterparts Liberty and Orange, there are no seniors in the school’s inaugural year. Liberty went 1-9 in its first year in 2003 and Orange started with a 3-7 mark its first time out. So, the Bears might have to take their lumps.
The good news is if Berlin is anything like its sister schools, it could be looking at a first ever playoff bid in Year 2.
And to further stack the deck, the Bears, who expect to be a Division III team when the numbers get tallied, are playing in the OCC Cardinal, which features five Division I schools and two Division II programs.
“We’re playing to win each and every game,” Nori said. “It wouldn’t be right for me or anyone else to tell these kids, ‘Just give it a year.’ (Heck) no – we’re getting after it this year and we play to win every game no matter who is standing out there.”
The Bears have just 15 players who were on a varsity roster last season. Noah Dursik (guard) was a fixture on Olentangy’s line.
Other than that, Johnny Spinner (running back/linebacker) had nine tackles and one carry for one yard, Corey Hill (running back/receiver/linebacker) had a catch for eight yards, one kickoff return for six yards and three tackles, Jalen Weitzel (wide receiver/defensive back) had three tackles, Jake Hill (offensive/defensive line) had two tackles and Israel Foston (receiver/linebacker) had a tackle at Olentangy last season.
Most of everyone is brand new to the varsity level and some of them will play offense and defense.
Aiden Pettograsso, Liam McGreevey and Marcus Elliott will figure into the receiver unit and the defensive backfield. Gabe Chrysler, Cole Troyer, Antonio Alonso will play both sides of the line.
Other key pieces include Jacob Moeller, who is slated to be the quarterback. Aiden Cain will see some time at defensive end.
It’s a blank slate. That’s one of the advantages to opening a new school. There is no past, let alone one that matters.
“This is a great opportunity for any kid in our program to be a player … to be a leader … to be anything he wants to be because it’s wide open,” Nori said. “With me – whatever the kids are doing now is the first time I’m seeing it — so it’s a clean slate.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.