The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

August 31, 2013

A Bob Ettinger column: Franke fits in perfectly

By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — With Josh Franke taking over as the football coach at Edgewood, it’s easy to think it’s the dawn of a new day. In many ways, it is.

In other ways, it’s the continuation of an era that dawned a year ago. And, in another, it’s an era that began back in 1944 with the first game in the program’s history.

After coaching in Virginia, it was the 26-year-old Franke’s first Friday night back in Buckeye Land.

“I’m anxious,” Franke said 40 minutes before kickoff Friday night at Corlew Stadium. “I’m excited. It’s good to be back home. From the fans, to the students to the band, it’s just not like this in Virginia. It’s just... different.”

Franke can be excitable, at times, but he makes sure the Warriors channel their own excitement during the pregame warmups. Franke is apt to tell his boys that silence is golden as they wait for the visiting Geneva Eagles to parade by as they took the field.

“We’re in the business of winning football games,” he said. “We stress organization. It’s the little things. We tell them all the time that the most successful teams do all the little things.”

There was very little of the rah-rah behavior apt to be found during pregame drills on most high school football fields across the country. The Warriors seemed to understand they had a job to prepare for and went about it as if they had all punched time clocks on the way to the stadium.

While his assistants ran the drills, Franke took time to offer little tidbits to players here and there. He corrected techniques and offered encouragement.

But as the clock wound closer to game time, he became a bit more animated, raising his voice ever so slightly, bringing the Warriors emotions with it.

Back in the locker room, Franke let his seniors have a few minutes to address their teammates.

Anthony Monda was the first to speak, and his message was to put the team above all else.

“Look to your right and look to your left,” he said. “Give everything you have for those men right there. You worked your asses off all summer. Don’t leave anything out there. You’ll regret it.

“Remember, no matter what happens out there tonight, we’ll always be a family. You’ll always be a Warrior.”

Alex Spangler followed and elaborated on what a Warrior is, as well as adding to Monda’s sentiments.

“Everyone close your eyes,” he said. “Take three deep breaths. Feel that thing beating inside of you? That’s what you’ve got to play with tonight! Give all that you’ve got. Fight to the edge. Gang tackle.

“Do everything for that guy next to you. Remember this — go out and play with your heart. That’s what a Warriors is. A Warrior leads and plays with his heart!”

Driving home the point of family before the coaches took their turns was Anthonie Magda.

“We’ve been playing together 10 years,” he said. “I hate to think about it, but this is our last first game. I wouldn’t want to be on any other field than this one with you guys.

“I’m not a soft kid, but it brings tears to my eyes being here with you guys... and girls tonight. I’d do anything for you. I hope you would do the same. We’re all family. I love you all like brothers and sisters.”

Franke brought the emotions down a bit for a short time, making sure that some last-minute adjustments were well understood, before turning the floor over to his assistants.

“We talked last year of starting a new era of Egdewood football,” Lou Wisnyai said. “You seniors, it’s your job to keep that new era going.

“It takes you 55 guys in this locker room to continue the new era of Edgewood football.”

Franke then expanded the idea of family a bit.

“A lot of your dads played on this field,” he said. “Your uncles played on this field. Your brothers played on this field. It’s your time now. This field is sacred. This is our family. Our family is this field.

“It’s a packed house to see you. I came from a school where nobody went to the games. Don’t think every school has that. They don’t! I’m a living example of it.

“Play for those people. Play for your dads. Play for your uncles. Play for your brothers. Don’t play for the number on your chest. Those people out there have paid to see you play. Never let those people down!”

With those words, Franke tied his era, the latest era in Warrior football, to the Warriors of the past as they took the field to that familiar drumbeat.           

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at bettinger@starbeacon.com.