Although rain forced it to slightly alter its schedule, nothing could dampen what the Worthington Christian High School football team experienced Aug. 1.
When they weren't sloshing on a slightly muddy practice field at Worthington Christian Middle School, the Warriors looked just like any other team on the first day of official coaching allowed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
There were coaches talking about their vision for the season, plenty of drilling and even some light hitting.
It was a day unlike no other thus far for the Warriors, though, considering they are competing in varsity football for the first time.
"We were in the weight room all summer, but I was excited to have this day," senior Nick Grant said. "(Our coaches) basically just told us, 'This is what you work for.'"
Worthington Christian's first scrimmage is 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at Centennial. It then will play host to Hudson Western Reserve Academy at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 in the preseason.
The Warriors' first official game will be held at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 against the Cincinnati Landmark Christian Eagles, a team that is not affiliated with the OHSAA. Their other nine games, including their Sept. 5 matchup at Galion Northmor, are against OHSAA programs.
Worthington Christian is competing in Division VI, and eight of its nine opponents will compete in either Division VI or Division VII.
Competing in two-a-day practices for the first time is an experience the program has been preparing for, according to senior Dominic Francis.
"Our strength and conditioning coach, Josh Boysel, said that we have to embrace the grind," Francis said.
"What he meant was when we're in the weight room and outside this summer it's hard, but the point of the offseason is that we want it to be harder than two-a-days and that we have to keep going when it's hard."
An idea comes to fruition
Worthington Christian, which opened in 1973, enjoyed its first athletic success at the state level in 1994 when junior point guard Kevin Weakley led the boys basketball team to a Division IV state runner-up finish.
The Warriors won the state championship in boys basketball in 1999 and since have won state titles in boys soccer in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Weakley, who became boys basketball coach in 2001 and has been athletics director since 2006, remembers hearing about the idea of adding football back in the 1990s.
After a series of discussions between Weakley and Tom Anglea, who was the school's principal for 18 years before dying Oct. 10, 2012, from brain cancer, the idea came to fruition in winter 2010.
The Warriors hired Brian Stier as coach in summer 2011. He coached a combined seventh- and eighth-grade team in 2012 and a junior varsity squad last fall.
Before being Worthington Christian's first coach, Stier had worked with the Columbus Crusaders club team for 11 years, including as head coach from 2009-11.
The Crusaders previously played their games and held practices at Worthington Christian Middle School, but since have moved to The Church at Polaris.
"(Adding football) has been an ongoing discussion for the last decade and a half, but it probably heated up about four or five years ago," Weakley said. "We started talking about how it was probably time for our school to offer that sport. I think our community was ready for it. You look at the numbers, and they had about 60 or 70 boys when I was there, and now we're at about 90 to 100."
Stier was pleased when the middle school team went 5-3 in its first season in 2012. Last fall, the Warriors went 2-5 at the j.v. level and played two Friday night games to provide a feel for what playing varsity might be like.
"From an athletics director's perspective, it's a lot of work, but two years ago when we had our first middle school game, we had 600 to 700 fans," Weakley said. "Last year in our Friday night games, we had some big crowds. I'm looking forward to what our first year of varsity football will be like."
Taking the next step
According to Stier, the Warriors likely will have about 35 players in uniform when the season begins.
While 6-foot-3, 310-pound senior two-way lineman Brian Lambright is among those who have joined the program after previously playing for the Crusaders, Grant and Francis are among more than a dozen who played for the j.v. team last year.
"It's been good because we have added some new kids to the school, and I think football is helping enrollment at the school," Stier said. "Over the last couple years, about 10 to 12 students have come to Worthington Christian who have wanted to play."
Although Worthington Christian competes in the MSL-Ohio Division in most sports, it will play in the MSL-Cardinal in football with Berne Union, Fairfield Christian, Fisher Catholic, Grove City Christian, Harvest Prep and Millersport.
"Jim Hayes, the commissioner of the Mid-State League, did a good job of getting us in (the MSL-Cardinal) considering our size," Stier said.
Having the first two-a-day practice was the next step, according to Stier, in eventually building a winning program.
"One of the things I want to make sure we do is stay healthy because obviously we don't have a ton of kids out," he said. "It's exciting once you get out there because you realize what it takes. This is fun to be out there. We've been working toward a day like this since last fall.
"We want to have a competitive year. A lot of these kids are learning what high school football is all about. We also want the community to know what it's about. We want to continue to promote the good things at Worthington Christian."