Sports talk: Frontier looking forward to D7

NEW MATAMORAS – When Frontier High hosts Steubenville Central Catholic in a non-conference football game at 7 p.m., Sept. 6, it’ll be the Cougars’ first Ohio Division VII matchup of the season.

Frontier had been a DVI school in football until April 12 when the Ohio High School Athletic Association added a seventh tournament division. This was the first time the OHSAA had expanded the number of football tournament divisions since 1994. In 1999, the number of tourney qualifiers expanded from 16 to 32.

The Cougars were a postseason, playoff opponent three straight years, from 2002 to 2004.

With the addition of a seventh division, 32 more tournament opportunities have been created for schools around the state of Ohio.

“Playing at the D7 level, this is a good thing for us,” said Frontier head football coach Todd Bradford, who guided the Cougars to a 4-6 overall mark in 2012. “I think it’ll help us be more competitive and keep us within striking distance.”

Along with Central Catholic, FHS has three other D7 schools on its 2013 slate (Bridgeport, Beallsville, and Caldwell). The Cougars also will face five D6 schools (Shenandoah, Buckeye Trail, Fort Frye, Monroe Central and River) and one West Virginia Class A school (Valley).

The Cougars are scheduled to host the Zeps of Noble County in their season and home opener at 7 p.m. Aug. 30.

Frontier will have a “learning camp” the week prior to officially kicking off practice Monday, Aug. 5. Starting right off with two-a-days, the Cougar will be on the gridiron from 7 a.m to 11:30 a.m. or noon, Bradford said.

“The kids will have to get up and get at it,” the Frontier boss continued. “They’ll need to get acclimated to the heat (later in the morning), because it’s probably going to be warm out there in our first few games.”

Bradford said he’s pleased with the Cougar turnout.

“It looks like we have 33 signed up,” he said. “We have a little bit of experience, but we only have one lineman (Austin Kimble) returning.”

Frontier will also have a new quarterback taking center snaps with the graduation of Jordan Jefferson. Right now, junior Mitch Reynolds is the frontrunner at the position.

“Mitch got a few reps in last year when I had to take Jordan out during a game due to injury,” Bradford said.

FHS will also miss running back and graduate Taylor Merckle. But the Cougars at RB look solid with the return of Jared Howell and Dakota Welker, also an inside linebacker on defense.

Thing is, look for many of the Cougars to play on both sides of the ball – and also on special teams.

That’s just how high school football life can be – at all divisions of competition.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com