As Marietta High's football team went through some drills early Thursday evening, Matt McKitrick observed from the back - all alone, at first.
Unlike a year ago at this time, the 18-year-old student/athlete was not attired in a helmet and practice clothes. Rather, he was in his "civies" which included blue jeans and a Greenleaf Landscapes t-shirt.
McKitrick looked like he wanted to be a part of the Tigers' camp practice session but knew better. He was after all no longer on the orange and black team roster, because he was moving to Gallipolis.
"We're leaving Sunday," said McKitrick.
At one point during the practice, MHS first-year head football coach Bob Springer strolled over to McKitrick and shook his hand. Then later during a break, several team members approached and "ganged up" on their former teammate in an affectionate manner.
They were going to miss McKitrick and he was going to miss them.
"I've played football with a lot of these guys since the fourth grade," McKitrick said.
In Gallipolis, McKitrick will be attending Gallia Academy, and is expected to play football for the Mike Eddy-coached Blue Devils. GA, a member of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL), usually fields a pretty good gridiron team, and McKitrick will only make it better.
An all-around football player and athlete, McKitrick can play pretty much any of the skills positions on offense, including quarterback. As a sophomore, he filled in nicely at the QB position after the team was decimated by injuries.
Very swift afoot, McKitrick has also played in the defensive secondary and as a kick returner on special teams.
McKitrick intended to go out for the Marietta track and field team in the spring, but ultimately decided to make money instead, working at Greenleaf Landscapes on Muskingum Drive.
Last year, Gallia Academy was 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEOAL, good for a third-place finish in the league. On Sept. 17, 2010, the Blue Devils defeated the Tigers 34-21 at Don Drumm Stadium. McKitrick, donning No. 3 on his jersey, had a good game for the orange and black, rushing for 71 yards on 11 carries.
In what turned out to be his last game as a Marietta football player on Oct. 29, 2010, McKitrick gained 49 yards on 12 attempts, and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Morgan Wynn. More importantly, the Tigers defeated Washington County rival Warren 33-28 in Vincent.
So, in that respect, McKitrick capped his football career at MHS on a very high note.
But make no mistake about it, Marietta hasn't seen the last of McKitrick. On Sept. 16, Gallia Academy is scheduled to host the Tigers in a non-league 7:30 p.m. game. It's non-league now, because MHS is a member of the East Central Ohio League (ECOL).
"It's going to be so weird, wearing blue," McKitrick said.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at email@example.com