Football people in Monroe County believe this could be a special fall on the gridiron for the Seminoles' team.
After all, Monroe Central did close out the 2008 campaign with seven consecutive wins. Problem was, the Noles started out 0-3 with setbacks to Columbiana Crestview, Shadyside and Hannibal River.
"All three of those games were close and against some pretty good competition," said veteran Monroe Central head football coach Jay Circosta, the dean of Ohio Valley coaches and the OVAC's all-time wins leader on the gridiron.
Columbiana Crestview (9-1), Shadyside (8-2) and River (10-0) combined to compile a 27-3 record in regular-season play. All three of the schools clinched a postseason berth.
To its credit, Monroe Central bounced back in week 4 to defeat playoff-bound Caldwell 27-14 in a Pioneer Valley Conference opener. After that game, the Seminoles' schedule got much easier. Only one of the six remaining schools (Magnolia of New Martinsville, W.Va.) finished 2008 with a winning record.
So, was Monroe Central the best 7-3 high school football team in Ohio Division 5, Region 19 that didn't compete in the playoffs?
Well, in the final rankings, the Noles weren't even close, finishing No. 12. Only the top 8 of course go on to postseason play.
There were actually two teams (Paint Valley and Fredericktown) ahead of the Seminoles in the rankings with 8-2 marks that didn't advance.
Interestingly, in 2006, Monroe Central also had a fantastic finish, winning seven of its last eight games. It, too, missed out on the postseason - by just a few percentage points, though.
The following year, there were high expectations in Monroe County. But the Seminoles slumped to 4-6.
Circosta and the Noles naturally don't want to see a repeat of that - and they shouldn't in 2009.
Still...on the subject of this year's squad, the Monroe Central coach isn't about to thump his chest and do a little dance.
"We've got a long ways to go," Circosta said. "We've got some nice running backs back, but we need to find some receivers.
"We also only have three returning linemen - and only one of them was a true starter."
No question about it, without those big people up front, it's going to be awfully difficult for skills people like Derek-London Dierkes, Tyler Kinchen, and Jesse Headley to break a long-gainer. After all, football games, for the most part, are won in the trenches.
Today, the first official day of high school football practice in Ohio, Circosta and his staff are expecting to greet 40 Seminole players, including freshmen, on the field. The numbers are good, and they should be in shape and rearing to go.
"During the summer, we had 7-on-7 scrimmages, and worked on our conditioning," Circosta said.
Circosta of course is hopeful for a carryover from last year, but he's not looking past the season and home opener against the Federal Hocking Lancers of the Tri-Valley Conference at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 28.
Neither school has ever faced each other before on the gridiron. Last year, Federal Hocking, located in Stewart (due south of Belpre), was also 7-3.
"We needed a game, and they needed one, too," Circosta said. "It's a one-year deal. It should be a good game."
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org