The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


September 21, 2013

A Bob Ettinger column: Croston calm before the storm

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — Homecoming is always special. People who would normally have better things to do find themselves sitting on a bleacher in school colors. The electricity from the student section is of a higher wattage. The band plays a bit louder.

Yes, everybody loves homecoming.

Everybody, that is, except the football coaches.

Football coaches are left with players riding dangerously high emotions. The timing of the pregame warmup is cut short, changing the way a coach prepares his players.

Pymatuning Valley coach Neal Croston found himself in that very predicament prior to a matchup with Edgewood on Friday night at Laker Stadium.

For the average coach, and maybe some who are above-average, it can be the most stressful night of the year.

But Croston is a cool customer, outwardly, at least.

“It’s homecoming,” he said. “What are you going to do?”

After a brief stretch and some positional drills, Croston found out his team had to leave the field. It was a complete surprise to the coach that at 20 minutes after six, his team had to give way to the band for the pregame ceremony.

Croston sent the Lakers to the locker room to relax for a few minutes while he formulated a plan. The Lakers, already jacked up, could hardly sit still, waiting for the next chance to expend a bit of energy.

Ultimately, it was decided to take the team out on a small patch of grass in front of the high school where he could go over some formations with his offense.

There was a catch with that, as well.

“(Quintin) Ratliff, (Travis) Kiser and (Nick) Holt are all out there,” Croston said, referring to the crowning of the PV homecoming king and queen. “We don’t have a quarterback to run any of the offense.”

But Croston was still unfazed, ready to play the hand he was dealt. Calmly and quietly, he told junior-varsity quarterback Mitchell Skleres to stand in at the position.

Instead of running through a few plays, Croston stood in the backfield and walked the Lakers through situations and what they should do on certain plays. He answered questions here and there, but mostly it was a monologue, leaving the casual observer to wonder if what was being said would sink in with the players.

To the Lakers, Croston appeared calm and collected, as if this was how preparation for every Friday night was supposed to go. Nobody mentioned the elephant in the room.

The PV assistant coaches stood off the side, watching, saying little, content to let Croston do his thing.

Back in the locker room, the players again sat, anxiously waiting to take the field.

The sounds of metal chairs sliding across concrete, cleats clacking on the floor, shoulder pads adjusting as players squirmed. Croston’s only directive was to remain quiet and be ready for him to return and address some last-minute details with the defense.

In the coaches’ room, the mood was light. Jokes about bodily functions and pregame visits to the restroom were dropped. Then it was back to address the team.

Croston again addressed situations and formations, only this time, it was for the defenders. Again, it was a monologue with a stray question sprinkled in.

This part, at least, was status quo. Croston often uses the few moments between warmups and opening kick to address the defense.

When he finished, Croston simply said to take the field. No words of wisdom. No firing up the troops. There was little need as the everyone knew what wasn’t said.

It was homecoming. It was a big night. Croston’s message was clear without him having to deliver the words.

It was simply showtime.         

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at

Text Only
  • Taylor Outlaws edged by a run

    The slimmest of margins proved to be the difference in determining the outcome of a clash between the Ohio Outlaws Gold and the Virginia Shamrocks in the USA-ASA 16-and-under Nationals on Wednesday in Salem, Va.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Olivia-smile A Don McCormack column: Holt right at home at Mount

    When a young person from this area goes off to college and continues to play sports at the next level, we do feature stories on them.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Twin State Night at Raceway 7 next

    This week is the annual Twin State Club night at Raceway 7. Regular racing will be presented in all five divisions. With the points races nearing their conclusion the racing will be hot as August weather Friday night.

    July 31, 2014

  • Tribe Kluber twirls gem

    “The ace is gone. Long live the ace.” That’s how Indians fans might be looking at matters today.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • SB1 Let’s play another

    It pays to have the right hitters at the plate at the right time.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Outlaws roll again

    They may be Outlaws by name, but the Northeast Ohio-based Ohio Outlaws Gold are certainly running with the in crowd at the USA-ASA 16-and-under Nationals in Salem, Va.

    July 30, 2014

  • Don A Don McCormack column: Bearcat Gavorski on the mend

    Paying another visit to the variety store...

    On the mend
    Arguably the most decorated soccer player to every come out of the Star Beacon coverage area is down — temporarily — but anything but out.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tribe Not quite enough

    Although the Indians are still very much mathematically alive in the race for a postseason berth, they continue not to look like a playoff team. And when they have put a run together, they haven’t been able to maintain the habit of playing winning baseball.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Outlaws win opener

    The Ohio Outlaws Gold did not start well at the USA-ASA 16-and-under Nationals in Salem, Va. on Monday, but they sure did finish their opening encounter with a flourish.

    July 28, 2014

  • Racing remains at the fore

    Raceway 7’s Crate Late Models had an unsanctioned $1000 to win 25-lap feature with Kyle Zimmerman picking up the lion’s share of the glory after leading the entire distance for his first win of 2014.

    July 28, 2014

Little League All-Stars July 1 to 12
AP NASCAR Lastest News
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
AP Auto Racing Photos
West Side Shootout 2014
Ashtabula County at State Track Meet
Jefferson vs Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Regional Softball
District Track 2014
Jefferson District Softball Tournament
Bob Walters 50 Years
Geneva vs Perry Division II District Semifinal
Sports Week in Review May 12 to May 17
Sports Week in Review May 5 to May 10 2014
Sports Week in Review April 28 to May 3
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video