There are no sweeter words than this to a writer, “I really like your writing. I really enjoy your column. I read it every time.” These words were spoken to me at our annual Englewood Writers Guild get-together. The speaker was a senior citizen like myself. I thanked her and said, “Well, you better like football because my next column is about football.”

“Oh, I love football,” she replied.

Bless you Suzanne Smith. This one’s for you.

Well, it’s time for my annual football column. Lemon Bay and North Port both finished 2-8. At North Port, a lot of players leave and go elsewhere to play. Until that problem is addressed, North Port will continue to struggle. The best thing that has happened for their program is that coach Brian Hatler has coached there the past four seasons, lending some stability to the program. If Hatler can keep his players enrolled at North Port they will start winning, more than two games a season.

As for Lemon Bay, their star quarterback and his younger brother transferred to Venice for the 2018 season. It’s impossible to say what affect this had on Lemon Bay’s team, but it could not have been good.

I am not in favor of the easy transfer rules for athletes here in Florida. They encourage recruiting. Believe me, if I lost a good athlete to a nearby school, I’d be up at that school saying, “Well, you know that you won’t play here until you are a senior. Come on down to my school and you will start right away, guaranteed.”

It has been 48 years since I coached my last football game. But I can say that leading my team onto the field under the lights was one of the greatest thrills I have had. My feet never touched the ground for the first few minutes.

My Dayton Colonel White team of 1960 was the finest I ever coached. We were undefeated in 10 games and scored an average of 53.6 points a game. We were ranked fifth in the state in the large school division. There were no playoffs back then but I believe we could have defeated any team in Ohio. We had preseason scrimmages with two of the teams that were ranked ahead of us and had beaten them soundly. Eight of our starters earned scholarships to Division I schools including Ohio State, Indiana and Tennessee. Our left halfback earned a full ride to Illinois for gymnastics. Another team I coached snapped our opponent’s long winning streak. They had won 43 games in a row. We were to be No. 44. But despite two blocked punts, we won the game 8-6.

I watch only college games now. I gave up on the pros years ago. Occasionally I’ll watch the Cleveland Browns, but they are an exercise in futility

As I write this, it’s the week of league championships. I’m a Buckeye fan and hoping we can defeat Northwestern and be invited to the final four. Alabama would have to beat Georgia and Texas beat Oklahoma before Ohio State could be considered. Of course Ohio State must beat Northwestern, no easy task. During the regular season Ohio State was whipped by Purdue 49-20. I’m not certain that a team with that kind of loss belongs in the playoffs. (Editor’s note: Ohio State beat Northwestern on Saturday, but did not make the playoffs.)

P.S. Suzanne Smith, I loved your poetry.

Roy Ault is a columnist for the Englewood Sun and a longtime Englewood resident. He is the author of seven novels. All can be found on Amazon or you may contact him at 941-473-6051.

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