By Zach Baker
It's week one of the Northern Ohio League football season, but in some respects, it feels like week 10.
All one has to do is listen to Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio talk about tonight's clash between his Tornadoes and Ed Nasonti's Bellevue Redmen to understand the importance.
Both teams are undefeated.
Both teams are state-ranked.
Both teams have a dominant runner that fuels a potent offense.
In last year's game between the two, Bellevue's Jalen Santoro gave the Tornadoes fits. In last season's 20-6 Bellevue win, Santoro rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns. It was Columbian's first loss of last season, and Colatruglio hasn't forgotten it.
"I've been thinking about this for about 358 days," Colatruglio said. "We all have losses, but some stick with you more than others."
Colatruglio felt that his team didn't play all that well when the teams played in Bellevue. Tonight's game is at Frost-Kalnow Stadium, and Colatruglio was asked if his team might be too amped up come the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
"We've all played in some big games, big environments," Colatruglio. "I don't think we'll be overwhelmed by the environment."
Nasonti said it's a big game for his team, to go up against a Tornadoes squad that was picked first in the NOL in preseason polling.
"We have some great challenges in front of us but also some great opportunities, too," Nasonti said.
While both coaches acknowledged the prowess of running stars Santoro and Columbian's Jack Jacoby, they also said success is about more than those two.
Where we're both good is up front," Colatruglio said. "(Bellevue) is most physical group we've seen all year.
"Both those guys (Santoro and Jacoby) would tell you it's the guys up front who get the job done. If you want to watch the game within the game, it's going to be at the line of scrimmage."
Nasonti said Bellevue doesn't just rely on Santoro. In Dalton Jarvis, the Redmen have an effective back, and the coach said they've been striving for balance.
"Our offense is a spread offense, we've got a lot more people involved," Nasonti said.
Colatruglio said it will be a test, but his team is ready.
"It's one of those weeks where everybody understands what's at stake and we prepared accordingly," Colatruglio said.