Weights clinked. Music blared. Grunting was a constant background noise.

Weights clinked. Music blared. Grunting was a constant background noise.

Most importantly, the fieldhouse at Grove City High School was abuzz with athletes preparing for the fall sports season.

Leading the way was the football team. It is approaching the one-year anniversary of when the South-Western City Schools levy failed Aug. 4, 2009 and canceled all extra-curricular activities for the district last fall. It also meant no football for the Dawgs.

Grove City and the game of football have been synonymous for decades and it has provided an enticing atmosphere for its players.

"That's why some of the kids who left have come back," Grove City defensive coordinator Chris Farbizo said. "They know we have a pretty unique situation on Friday nights in the fall here. The quality of the band and the number of fans lend to the overall experience. The kids know that and they want to be a part of that."

After a levy passed last November, extra-curricular activities returned to SWCS, as did most of the players.

"We opened the weight room that following day after the levy passed," coach Matt Jordan said. "The weight room and locker room was filled. When we walked in there, all the kids started clapping.

"It was a pretty emotional day and it has carried over. We were lifting four days a week during school and now it's three days."

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the team holds two weight-lifting sessions from 7-9 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. Each player is expected to attend one of those sessions. The response has been overwhelming. Farbizo estimates the morning session has 60-70 players while the evening session has 35-40. On June 16, Jordan counted the number of players at the morning and evening session and it totaled 140 players. Those weightroom workouts will continue through July. Also in July, the team will hold a camp before the first day of practice begins Aug. 2. That date marks the beginning of the grueling two-a-day practices.

"I can't wait," senior Matt Leifheit said.

Leifheit and teammate Tyler Emmelhainz went their separate ways after the levy failure last summer and their stories are not uncommon. Emmelhainz transferred to Grove City Christian while Leifheit decided to stay and wait for sports to return.

"My parents offered to transfer me to another school," Leifheit said. "I decided to stay. I didn't want to go anywhere else. I wanted to be here and play here. I tried to ignore the games going on last year and kept my hopes up for my senior season."

Meanwhile, Emmelhainz played for Grove City Christian and the team finished 12-2 after losing in a Division VI state semifinal game to Norwalk St. Paul 52-7

"It just wasn't the same as being at Grove City," Emmelhainz said. "It was just not as much competition."

Emmelhainz was not the only player or coach to wear different colors last season. Jordan was the defensive coordinator at Pickerington North and Farbizo was a game-day volunteer for Granville.

"It was a great opportunity to just focus on one side of the football and work on your skills as a coach," Jordan said. "You didn't have to worry about the whole picture. Tom Phillips does a great job at North and it gave me a different perspective from an organizational standpoint."

Farbizo spent 2003-06 as a defensive backs coach with Grove City before leaving for two seasons to become Bexley's defensive coordinator. He returned to Grove City before the 2009 season as the Dawgs' new defensive coordinator.

"To have football back here is great," Farbizo said. "This program has been built on hard work. It's what it was built on when I was here the first time and that's what it still is with these kids."

Jordan said the intensity level at the weightroom sessions is heightened because the team is champing at the bit to return to practice and, ultimately, Friday nights.

"You can smell it," Jordan said. "August is right around the corner and football season is close."