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St. Paul football program is truly remarkable

By JIM BUSEK • Nov 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM

It is very difficult to win consistently in high school sports.

There are lots of reasons why. Starting with the fact that the games are played by kids.

Just by the luck of the draw or the law of averages, some classes have kids who are more gifted, more motivated or more coachable than others.

So you expect, at best, winning and losing will run in cycles — win a couple of years, lose a couple of years.

And the margin of error is greatly reduced in the smaller schools. Because the pool of talent is limited, one good player can break a bone and ruin the season for the whole team.

That’s why the success of the football program at St. Paul is so amazing.

They have been so good for so long, some people take it for granted.

They have not lost a conference game in years, 39 consecutive wins. This year’s seniors, for instance, did not lose to a Firelands Conference opponent during their entire high school careers.

For that matter, in the past 27 regular season games they have not lost to anybody in any conference. Only one team out of Ohio’s several hundred high schools has a longer streak.

Six straight conference championships. Annual trips to the playoffs. A thrilling state championship victory.

And this is at one of the very smallest schools in the entire state. Two school buses would hold all the boys in high school with seats to spare. Last year’s team played for a regional championship with just six seniors on the team.

Cynics around the state undoubtedly suggest that our little parochial school somehow recruits the talent it needs to win. The hole in that argument becomes obvious when you look at the names on the roster year-after-year, decade-after-decade: Rosperts and Stolls and Meyers and Grosses and Nickolis and countless other local families, loyal to the Flyers.

The photo on the front page of this newspaper last Tuesday was typical. Chris and Mike Mushett from the undefeated 1969 Associated Press poll state championship team were pictured with their nephews, Jude and Hunter Sweet, from this year’s undefeated AP poll champions.

As in any school, new people move to town and kids transfer once in a while, but the vast majority of talent on these remarkable St. Paul teams is home grown.

Of course there are schools all over the place with an equal amount of potential.

That’s where quality coaching and consistency kick in.

John Livengood has coached the Flyers for 26 years. There are several schools in the Firelands Conference that have not won a single league championship in that span. St. Paul has done it 17 times.

From what I have heard, several things make Livengood’s teams so good.

For starters, he surrounds himself with outstanding coaching assistants who stay with the program for years. They start coaching the St. Paul system at the grade school level. The little kids run the same plays with the same terminology with the same expectation for success as the high school kids.

Conditioning and weight training is done to build healthy, athletic bodies, not bulky muscle bound ones.

They all work hard because Livengood works hard. They believe in what they are coached because it has been successful for 26 years.

Then they go out and play. And they look good doing it. They come out of their huddle fast and run to the line. They block and tackle the way they were coached. They execute their plays in ways that make other coaches envious.

Just ask Wayne Trace, the team the Flyers beat in the first round of the state playoffs last Friday night. St. Paul had 45 points, no penalties and completely dominated their opponent. And that was just in the first half! The game started at 7:30 and, for all practical purposes, was over before 8.

That’s the way Coach Livengood’s teams usually start the playoffs. And you have probably already seen lots of other stories about their history of success.

But I couldn’t resist writing one more to remind everyone just how remarkable it is.

 

Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at jimbusek@ hotmail.com.

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