Aug. 1 is the day local high school players have looked forward to/dreaded all summer.
On the Ohio high school athletic association calender, falls sports coaching opens Aug. 1. That's means its officially two-a-day practice time.
Of course, that means it's officially football season in Northeast Ohio.
Although my inner fan doesn't seem to grasp that just yet.
Perhaps it's a sign of how things of gone this summer that I caught him wearing United States soccer jersey, while attempting to rehabilitate an old LeBron James jersey in a washtub …
Journalist Michael: Oh, good grief. You do realize fire damage tends not to come out in the wash, right?
Fan Mike: Shut it! Maybe if I just use a bit more elbow grease …
JM: Look, I'll pay for a new LeBron jersey if you knock it off.
FM: Well, I guess I could always use it as a throwback …
JM: We've got a good three months until the Cavaliers come back for real. Can you concentrate on football for now?
FM: Sure. Do you think Tim Howard will be back in 2018 in Russia?
JM: The answer is "I don't think so," but you know that's now what I mean.
FM: Alright, if you insist on American football … I think Ohio State can win the Big Ten, but there's just too many question marks to think they can reach the BCS title game.
JM: Uh huh. I agree, but what about the local professional scene?
FM: It's great. The Gladiators made the playoffs.
JM: Geez, have you erected that many mental barriers between you and thinking about the Browns?
FM: … yes. At least for now. I'm certain once the season starts, I'll be neck deep again. The fact the season opens in Pittsburgh won't help, especially with your wife …
JM: First of all, she's our wife. Second of all, don't even start. The last six years have been great.
FM: Except for the fact she hasn't burned her Terrible Towel yet!
JM: Sorry, if you're reading this, honey....
FM: I can't think about the Browns yet, it's still summer. Yes, I love the fact the Browns drafted a quality cornerback and were able to get Johnny Manziel in the first round of the draft. I like a lot of what coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer have done.
JM: So, we agree the Browns will be better, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
FM: Justin Gilbert and Joe Haden could be the Browns best cornerback combo since Dixon-Minnifield.
JM: But …
FM: … but we're still in the toughest division in football, the schedule is still way too rigourous for a last-place team and I just don't know if Manziel or Brian Hoyer is the answer at quarterback.
JM: In other words, it's a case of hope finally losing out to results?
FM: Stop that right now. You know I knew the difference between "Browns" and "Steelers" before "A" and "B." I'm not going to stop cheering for them. It's just difficult.
JM: So, like me, you're thinking another 5-11 finish?
FM: The optimist in me says 7-9.
JM: What about the pessimist?
JM: Yikes, no wonder you're still concentrating on other forms of football.
FM: Speaking of which, what are you thinking for high school football around here?
JM: Ohio's new seven-division playoff system definitely helped some local teams last year. Stow-Munroe Falls had a season for the ages, while Aurora, Hudson, Nordonia and Woodridge all were solid again.
FM: So, who do you think will be the best team in the area this season?
JM: Graduation losses hit everybody hard last year, so there's a bunch of solid teams, but no one who stands out as a state title contender. That said, I think this is the year Hudson breaks out.
FM: Breaks out as in gets past the second round of the playoffs?
JM: Yes, but there's no reason not to expect big years from Nordonia and Aurora, either. And history shows anyone who underestimates Walsh Jesuit, Woodridge and especially Tallmadge does so at their own peril.
FM: Fair enough. What about a top player?
JM: There's some quality returning quarterbacks this year, including Woodridge's Tom Finegan and Hudson's Mitchell Guadagni, who's committed to Toledo …
FM: Grrrrrrr …
JM: I know, your Bowling Green alumni heart hates it, but he's a good kid. However, I think Nordonia senior quarterback David Murray is going to have a huge season.
FM: Think he'll have the most weapons around him?
JM: Check out what Nordonia did in track this spring and that's your answer. Plus, you can't argue with 30 touchdowns vs. only eight interceptions last season.
FM: Now if only the Browns could have a quarterback with that touchdown-to-interception ratio.