CINCINNATI — It’s another first in a year full of them: When La Salle and Elder meet Friday at the Pit in week 1 of the Ohio high school football season, it will be the first time two GCL-South schools open the season as opponents.
“Playing at the Pit’s exciting,” La Salle head coach Pat McLaughlin said. “I always like opening up with a tough game. In the offseason, it doesn’t take a lot for the kids to get motivated.”
What would be the hot ticket at the historic venue in most years will instead be played in front of a maximum of 1,500 people per OHSAA guidelines. o combat that, Elder’s always-fervent fan base got creative.
“Someone just built a brand-new deck behind the press box so people could sit there and watch the game,” Elder coach Doug Ramsey said. “It’s unfortunate that people can’t be here in large numbers but we have to do what we have to do to get the kids out there. I don’t think it’ll take away from the excitement that the kids will have. This is an opportunity we didn’t know we were going to have. Two months ago, if I was a betting man, I would say we weren’t going to play.”
Elder lost in the 2019 OHSAA Division 1 state title game to Pickerington Central. La Salle won the D2 title. Both teams are ready to start anew.
“We don’t talk about it,” McLaughlin said of being reigning champions. “This is a new team, they’re on a new journey. They have a chance to create their own legacy and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not getting any points in week 1 for what we did in the championship.”
Ramsey has coached the Panthers since 1997. He believes La Salle could be the best team in Ohio, regardless of division, this year. The Lancers boast running back Gi’Bran Payne who has offers from Alabama, Michigan and Notre Dame. All four members of the secondary are committed to Division 1 universities.
Ramsey’s own team lost all-league QB Matthew Luebbe and two offensive linemen – Jakob James (Ohio State) and Luke Kandra (Louisville) to Division 1 programs. But the Panthers still have Drew Ramsey at receiver and tight end David Larkins.
“This year is going to be especially hard (preparing for Elder),” McLaughlin said. “We haven’t seen them. Have tape from last year. They do plenty of shifts and motion on offense. Very good offensive concepts. Always well coached.”
In unprecedented season, both La Salle and Elder are just happy it’s game week. No matter what the stands look like at the Pit.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the environment is like, what the atmosphere is like, what the energy is come Friday night,” McLaughlin said.