Matt Schramm was in limbo as his junior year ended at Central Crossing High School.
Matt Schramm was in limbo as his junior year ended at Central Crossing High School.
With the imminent failure of the South-Western City Schools levy, Schramm had to make a decision: move to London to play football or stay with the Comets and be a club wrestler. The choice was not an easy one.
"A lot of my friends who don't play football don't understand why I left, but I had to make the right decision for me and that's what brought me to London," said Schramm, whose team is 4-1 and plays a South Central Ohio League game Friday at Clinton-Massie. "It was kind of weird going into a new place after being at Central Crossing all of those years. It really seems strange that for the last three years, I was always wearing blue and now I'm wearing red."
Schramm and 19 other players came to the Madison County school during the summer. It didn't take long for the culture shock to dissipate for another Central Crossing transfer, Jeff Yates. The junior quarterback feels like he's at home, even though he's only been with the Red Raiders for three months.
"It's like one of those things you watch on TV, but it's really happening," Yates said. "It's small-town football like on (the television show) 'Friday Night Lights.' It's not something everyone gets to experience, but I'm glad I got the chance.
"The (first) home game we had this year, they had fire trucks and sirens and you feel like the focus of everyone's eyes is on you. It feels good, but a lot different. I even heard people complain about the lines being too long at the concession stands. I'm not used to hearing that."
Yates lives in Grove City and carpools daily to school with his girlfriend Lindsay Carmean, a softball player, and center Chris Schifflet.
Kyle Hazlett, a senior linebacker from Westland, moved to London before the levy's failure.
"My mom (Lena Hazlett) and stepfather (James Ritchie) were looking for property for the year after I graduated, but with the levy failing they started looking a year earlier and we ended up here," said Hazlett, who also is a wrestler and runs track. "The atmosphere in sports is great. It's great to get so many people at home games."
Coach Bill Dennis welcomed the players, who he said came at the right time for his program.
"We talked with our kids about (the transfers coming in) and we thought it would be a win-win situation for everyone," said Dennis, who is in his fourth season with the Red Raiders after coaching at Millersburg West Holmes and Chillicothe. "I think the thing that helped the most was that they were willing to be here from Day 1. They lifted with us. They did fund-raisers with us. They came here and worked hard and, by the time the season rolled around, they weren't transfers anymore. They were part of the program."
Though they didn't know what to expect, the atmosphere was surprising and welcoming for the transfers.
"Coach Dennis preached since Day 1 that we're all Red Raiders and it doesn't matter what anyone on the outside said, it only matters what happens in this locker room," said Josh High, a sophomore starting linebacker who came from Central Crossing. "It's been a great opportunity and even though it's only been a couple of months, it feels like I've been around here since elementary school."
Yates said he looked into going to Hilliard Darby and Dublin Jerome but felt at home from the moment he arrived in London.
"The day I came here in early June, I had 14 coaches lined up on the sidewalk to shake my hand and meet me and some of the juniors and seniors stayed around to watch me throw," said Yates, who played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore with the Comets.
Keith Carius, a senior linebacker and fullback from Westland, felt like he was at the bottom of the ladder when he should have been enjoying the perks of being a senior.
"I came here in late June and I felt like a freshman again," Carius said. "I didn't know anyone and I didn't know what to expect from the coaches and I had to learn their system. I had to learn how to mesh with everyone.
"But maybe the toughest thing about coming here was finding a school. We talked to a couple of (athletics directors) and looked at several schools, including Jonathan Alder and Canal Winchester. I liked coach Dennis and his approach to the situation. He was pretty straightforward and said if I came here I had to work for playing time and that nothing would be handed to me. But he did tell me that I had a shot at playing."
The Red Raiders have five linebackers in their defensive package, with all five coming from SWCS. Carius is joined by Hazlett and High as well as senior Darius Morris and sophomore Frenchy Boos, both from Central Crossing. Two other defensive starters -- senior free safety Ben Rinehart and sophomore nose guard Carson Hiser -- are from Central Crossing.
London has four transfers starting on offense with Carius, Schramm, Shifflett and Yates.
Blending in at London was easier than sharing a locker room with their rivals from either Westland or Central Crossing.
Yates was tentative when he first met the Westland transfers.
"The first time we met (the Westland players), we really didn't want to talk to them," Yates said. "Then it's like we beat you (13-0) last year and after awhile, you get to know them all and you know you're on the same red team now. We're not the blue team or the green team anymore. We probably wouldn't have been friends if we hadn't been here, and they are pretty great guys."
Carius, who now shares the backfield with Yates, had his own reservations about the Comets.
"It was weird at first (being on a team with Central Crossing players), but we knew we were here to play football and we put aside the hatred we had for them in the past and now we're one team," he said. "There are no groups of (Westland, Central Crossing or London) players. We're one team and you pretty much can't tell players from one team to another."
Before falling to rival Jonathan Alder 20-12 last Friday, the Raiders had been rolling. Through four games, their balanced attack was led by Jake Burns with 316 yards and five touchdowns. The sophomore Central Crossing transfer had 143 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns Sept. 4 in a 41-16 win over Hamilton Township.
Yates was next with 312 yards on 54 carries and seven touchdowns and junior tailback Justin Hoosier had 265 yards on 43 carries with three scores. Darius Morris, a senior running back from Central Crossing, had 143 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns.
After four games, Yates was 24-for-36 passing for 341 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His primary targets were Rinehart with six catches for 129 yards and three touchdowns and freshman Kyle Fisher with six receptions for 77 yards and a score.
Defensively, Morris led with 24 tackles, followed by High with 16 tackles and two fumble recoveries and sophomore defensive lineman Jared Chastain with 15 tackles. Hazlett (14 tackles), Carius (13) and Rinehart (12) were also among the leaders.
Schramm is now a big man on the London campus, literally. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder had not found many players who can look him in the eye before the Red Raiders played Jonathan Alder with 6-6, 270-pound Purdue recruit Josh Davis.
"We have good players here, but it's so much different. In the OCC, I was always a little bigger than everyone else, but (through four games) there has been no one close to my size on the teams we've played," Schramm said.
In fact, football wasn't even on the slate for Schramm. He expected just to attend non-OHSAA-sanctioned wrestling tournaments as a club participant. He even attended some spring tournaments with members of the Olentangy and Dublin Coffman wrestling teams.
"If I weren't playing football, I would be dedicating my time to wrestling and going to tournaments throughout Ohio," he said. "Wrestling is something you can do as an individual outside school, so I would have probably stayed at Central Crossing."
But Yates and other players helped the lineman decide to play for the Red Raiders. Even Schramm is surprised by how much he has enjoyed the experience.
"I wasn't going to transfer. I was going to be wrestling because that's something that you could do at the club level," said Schramm, who drives daily to London for classes and practices. "But (coach Dennis) gave me back my senior year of high school by allowing me to come here. He was here with open arms and gave us a chance to play because we lost our chance to participate at Central Crossing."
Schramm said the expectations were also different in London, but in a good way. And that helps get the team pumped up and ready to play.
"It's different because of the excitement every week about the next game. We even have a big group of students who follow us around to the away games," he said. "Everyone around here thinks we're going to win every game. In the past, they were hoping that you'd go out and compete. This is something I can be proud of and say we're a good team. I can hold my head high and say that."
At a glance
The London High School football team has found success this season with the help of players who attended South-Western City Schools during the last school year. Below are the team's recent results and also a list of players from Central Crossing and Westland:
•London (4-1 overall, 1-0 in South Central Ohio League) to date: Defeated Urbana 28-20; def. Hamilton Township 41-16; def. Springfield Northeastern 39-34; def. Greenfield McClain 55-28; lost to Jonathan Alder 20-12
•Former Central Crossing players: Kevin Bass (RB/DB), James Belshe (WR/DB), Frenchy Boos (RB/LB), Jake Burns (RB/DB), Mike Doyle (OL/DL), Kenneth Herron (QB/DB), Josh High (RB/LB), Carson Hiser (OL/DL), Dan King (OL/DL), Aaron Leddy (TE/DL), Darius Morris (RB/LB), Jordan Napper (WR/DB), Ben Rinehart (WR/DB), Anthony Robinson (RB/LB), Matt Schramm (OL/DL), Chris Shifflett (C/DL) and Jeff Yates (QB/DB)
•Former Westland players: Keith Carius (FB/LB), Kyle Hazlett (RB/LB) and Galo Santos (WR/DB)