EAST LIVERPOOL - Weather has not been ideal for the first three days of the 33rd annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic practice at East Liverpool High School, but the staff and players are taking it in stride.
Monday's practice was halted after 70 minutes when storms moved into the area. Tuesday offered oppressive 90-degree temperatures. Wednesday was more of the same.
"The kids have shown no ill effects," Ohio coach Andrew Connor of Indian Creek said. "We have given them extra water breaks, but you would never know that it's that hot out.
"We're also lucky it's a little shady down here. I've been very impressed with the kids' work ethic so far."
Ohio game director Larry Baughman said Monday was the first time he remembered that all 36 players showed up for the first day of practice. All were also in attendance for Wednesday's media day.
"I really don't know why they all showed up for the first practice," Baughman said. "Maybe more of the kids that played in it the year before are coming back and saying 'Hey, this is a great game to play in.'"
Ohio fills its 36-man roster from 22 schools. This year, 15 players are from Columbiana County, 12 from Mahoning and nine from Jefferson. Stark County is not represented.
"We're very fortunate that everyone is taking it seriously and not coming up with excuses to get out of practice," Connor said. "To get them all here, especially with the heat, makes it a lot easier on the coaches."
Ohio could use all of the practice it can get as the Buckeyes have a three-game losing streak coming into the June 29 game at Springfield Local High School. Pennsylvania leads the all-time series 23-9.
Baughman said he gave the coach the option of scrapping practice if it was too warm on Wednesday. The team opted for a practice heavy on conditioning with plenty of water breaks after all of the media requirements were met.
Connor said he was pleased that the practices were set up at East Liverpool High School because it made it much easier for the Jefferson County personnel to get to.
"This is a good center point for our staff and the rest of the team," Connor said. "When you ask the kids to drive here every day, that's asking a lot of them."
As of right now, Baughman isn't too concerned with the weather over the next few days. He just wants ideal conditions for the game.
"I'm worried if we're clear next Friday," Baughman said. "I hope it's a great night because we're going to pack the place."
The preliminary forecast for the game day is a high of 79 degrees with partly cloudy skies, so he might be in luck.
Make it official
The NFL Officiating Academy, held on Thursdays throughout the summer at East Liverpool High School, is planning to observe and interact with practice today.
It will the first experience in a game setting for some of the new referees.
"They are ready to go," said East Liverpool assistant principal and local orgainizer Jay Kiger said. "They are excited. They got a little taste down on the field last week with our junior high and high school teams.
"Of course, there was no contact. It was just the offense and the defense walking through sets and things like that. Tomorrow will be the Ohio squad's first night to hit. It is their first chance to hit. It is going to be a baptism by fire."
Crestview athletic director Andris Baltputnis is serving as the public address announcer for the game.
The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. start on June 29 at Springfield Local High School. Players will be introduced starting at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the gate.
Advance tickets are available at practice from 6 to 8 p.m. weekdays, from any player or at Don's Barber Shop in Columbiana, Sitler the Printer in Columbiana, AT&T in the Oakmont Plaza in Columbiana, Sports Connection in Salem, Novak and Davis Insurance in New Middletown and Welsh Motors in New Springfield.