Growing up north of Ann Arbor, I've heard for years about how high school football players in Ohio were so much more talented and just "bigger."
I'm not a college or NFL scout so I can't judge talent, but I could see a major difference in the product I saw Friday night while watching the Perrysburg vs. Clay game to what I experienced six years ago when I was playing in high school.
There were several aspects of the Game Day experience that really struck me. They were:
1) The bands.
I thought both Clay and Perrysburg's bands did an awesome job. Clay's halftime show had pieces played by marching bands at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State - including a version of Script Ohio.
Perrysburg's band brought it, too - the alumni band had about 130 members, according to its director, and did some classic band songs like Hang on Sloopy, Louie Louie, and Thriller.
2) The crowd.
Where I come from, the town shuts down on Friday nights so everyone can go to the game, so I expected a packed Steinecker Stadium. But I was impressed with the way the visitors' section overflowed, too -- and you could just tell the crowd was full of true football fans. Most fans know to cheer when there was a touchdown or interception. But when a Perrysburg running-back would gain a two-yard rush - throwing defenders to his side or carrying them with him to gain the yards -- the crowd knew that was important, too.
I was impressed too with the support of the students for a breast cancer awareness fund-raiser. When we did a "pink-out" in high school to raise money for breast cancer research, the players had pink socks or arm bands and school administrators wore pink. But that was it. Friday night, the entire Perrysburg student section was entirely in pink. The students bought in and made it obvious to everyone in attendance how important it is to raise awareness and money for the cause.
I was jammed in the small press box with play-by-play and color commentary analysts from two radio stations.I can't imagine what it will be like in that press box when it is a much bigger conference game. We had reporters there when we made the playoffs, but still I don't think we had live radio.
That goes to show how much people care in this area about high school football.
Both Clay and Perrysburg had three to four wide receiver sets all night in the shotgun formation. I've probably just been away from the high school game for too many years, but when I was in high school, we ran the wing-T offense with a few shotgun and passing packages. It was extremely impressive to see these teams run the read-option, short passing game, and formations you see in the college game.
Seeing Perrysburg quarterback Gus Dimmerling running the shotgun offense, reading the defense, and successfully utilizing his offense to run and throw was impressive.
One thing that surprised me was the lack of depth with Perrysburg. It seemed like most players played both offense and defense, which is normal for a handful of talented players, but almost all of them doing it was surprising.
While I'm not ready to comment on the talent difference between Ohio and Michigan high school players - since a one-game sample size isn't fair - the Game Day experience was there.