Raiders must wait another day
Friday's game with East Palestine was postponed until tonight.
By ERIC HAMILTON
EAST PALESTINE -- For the second time in three years, the high school football season opener between South Range and East Palestine will finish on a Saturday.
A band of strong storms and lightning ripped through the area around 7:20 p.m. Friday, delaying the start of the Raiders/Bulldogs game.
The teams had warmed up and were expecting to kick off after the mandatory 30-minute waiting period for lightning had elapsed.
However, the lightning never subsided and after more than an hour, officials elected to postpone the game until 6 p.m. today.
"We're obviously disappointed," East Palestine coach John Protopapa said. "I think these kids were more mentally fired up to play than I've seen them in my two years here. We were even on our way out to the field twice, but had to go back in.
"But I told them that just like in life, anything good is worth waiting for," Protopapa said. "So we'll come back tomorrow excited to play and treat it like any other game day."
Happened in 2002
In 2002, South Range and East Palestine battled Mother Nature on opening night. The game was about half over before storms forced a stoppage and postponed the final two quarters until the following day.
South Range ended up on the short end of a 37-13 decision, but coach Dan Yeagley liked how his squad responded to the delay.
"We came out the next day and scored right away," Yeagley said. "We lost the game, but mentally we came back ready to play the next day.
"I think the biggest part of the game tomorrow will be how we respond mentally after not playing tonight," Yeagley said.
"I think these kids were pumped up to play football tonight and I think that will carry over to tomorrow. We told them to go straight home, get some food in their stomachs, get a good night's rest and be ready for some football tomorrow night."
Will affect Week 2
Regardless of how things turn out on the field, the one-day delay will affect both team's preparation for Week 2.
"I think the delay could really affect us," Yeagley said. "It takes a day away from healing, watching film and lots of little things that become a routine for a team.
"At least we're not in school yet and don't have to deal with that time crunch; we can spend that extra time for preparation for Week 2," Yeagley said.
South Range is looking for its 15th straight regular-season victory. The Raiders have not lost a non-playoff contest since falling to Inter-County League rival Lowellville in Week 6 of the 2002 season.
Protopapa was the Rockets' head coach that year.
South Range holds a 6-1 advantage over East Palestine in the series. The Bulldogs' win was in 2002.