WHEELING - Just plopped back down in my trusty chair at the office after two weeks of vacation. I say vacation, but that's a bit of a misnomer considering my wife gave birth to our second daughter June 20.
At any rate, this is the best time of my year for a couple reasons. First, I will not feel any fresher and have a clearer mind than I do right now, at any point throughout the school year. And secondly, the end of vacation means football is near.
That's right. The OVAC All-Star Football Game is 18 days away, while area schools kick off the 2011 regular season 51 days from now.
If college football is your game, Sept. 1 is the date you have circled. That's the day six games are scheduled to open up the TV season. West Virginia ushers in the Dana Holgorsen Era on Sunday, Sept. 4 when it entertains Marshall. Ohio State coach Luke Fickell gets his baptism a day earlier when Akron comes to the Horseshoe.
Oh, and if there is an NFL in 2011, preseason games begin in 33 days when Chicago plays St. Louis in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton.
Around here though, the one that really matters is that prep football date. I had a back-and-forth conversation on Twitter (@Shawn_Rine) with a buddy recently about the relevance of the sport in the Northern Panhandle.
He contends there's less interest than there once was. I say, hogwash.
Take a look at the message boards during any part of the calendar year and it's no surprise that football is the dominant discussion. While it's true there are less people in the seats, it's not because they find better ways to use their time.
Unless you're Steubenville, which seems to be the exception to just about every rule when it comes to local football, you've no doubt wondered where everyone has gone. Why aren't stadiums full?
Well, there's a couple simple answers and they're intertwined.
The population in the Northern Panhandle has steadily declined as the college graduates look elsewhere for better opportunities. What that means, is we're beginning to see less second- and third-generation names playing football at our area high schools. While there are exceptions, they hardly seem to be the rule anymore.
Secondly, with the economy only showing slight signs of picking up, there are many people who would normally be at the games that just can't afford it. When you've been on unemployment for 6 months or a year (God forbid more) the choice between putting food in your children's mouths or attending a game isn't a hard one for most.
But that doesn't make it any less important.
I've said this before and still believe it to be true: football is the one thing that brings Ohio Valley communities together. Whether you're rich or poor, a democrat or republican, a Catholic or a Methodist, we're all on the same team for at least 10 weekends a year.
Nothing gives me a feeling like the one I get walking into a high school football stadium on a Friday night. Bring on the band.
Wheeling Jesuit men's basketball coach Danny Sancomb has announced his latest recruiting class, an eight-member group. Of the eight, only 5-foot-10 combo guard Collin Barth of Mentor (Ohio) High School was an early (Fall) signee. He averaged 16 points and six assists a night in leading Mentor to a 21-5 record and berth in the regional finals.
Shooting guard Josh Valentic of Washington (Pa.) High averaged 30.3 ppg. a season ago, including a 51-point explosion. Valentic (6-3) added seven rebounds, four assists and was named to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette "Fab 5."
Erik Fisher, a 6-5 forward from Archbishop Spalding (Md.) averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Baltimore Catholic League, while Kyle Schrimi (6-1) of Canal Winchester (Ohio) averaged 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. Known more for his defense, Schrimi was second team All-Conference.
Smithburg, Md., native Aaron Dinterman (6-3 forward) averaged 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting better than 50 percent from the field, and Zach Barker, a 6-1 sharpshooter, is the second-leading scorer in Kiski Prep history (1,395 points) and scored 23 a game last season.
Kasey Tuttle, a Wheeling native who played last season at Western Reserve Academy (Hudson, Ohio), was named team Most Valuable Player after averaging 14 points and shooting 86 percent at the foul line.
The final recruit is 6-0 shooting guard Gerrod Chess, a four-year letterman and All-Academic selection in the Greater Miami Conference with Colerain (Ohio) High.
"We are excited about the addition of these new faces and feel strongly that they will contribute to the WJU program on and off the court," Sancomb said in a news release by the school.
Delmas, Lord Find Homes
Goaltender Peter Delmas had an eye-opening season in 2010, leading the Wheeling Nailers to the Eastern Conference Finals where they fell in six games to Kalamazoo. A member of the Montreal Canadiens organization, Delmas' contract was up after last season.
It didn't take the Canadiens long to make sure he didn't go anywhere. The club announced Tuesday it has signed Delmas to a three-year, two-way contract, meaning his career in Wheeling has come to an end.
In 24 regular-season games for the Nailers last season, Delmas, 21, accumulated a 15-6-2 record to go along with his 2.03 goals-against average, and a save percentage of .928. He then played 15 of 17 playoff games, registering an 8-5-1 record with a 3.13 GAA and .903 SVP.
Delmas was invited to Montreal's rookie and main training camps on a tryout basis.
This kind of news couldn't happen to a better guy. The same could also be said of forward Andrew Lord.
After playing two-plus seasons in Wheeling, Lord finally landed the American Hockey League contract he's been working tirelessly toward, when he signed recently with the Oklahoma City Barons. In 165 games in a Wheeling uniform, Lord recorded 104 points (42g-62a) and served 397 penalty minutes.
Lord joined the Barons in late December last season on a PTO. He ended up spending the remainder of the season with the team, appearing in 34 games and recording seven points (1g-6a) while serving 89 penalty minutes.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net