BERLIN CENTER, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s something you see at just about every local high school football game, kids playing football behind bleachers or whatever they can find, dreaming of playing on the big field under the Friday Night Lights.
But, it wasn’t that long ago that P.J. Beres and his teammates at Western Reserve were some of those kids, and now, they are ready to inspire the next generation of Blue Devils.
“Everybody is foaming at the mouth, ready to run through each other, I mean, it’s hard to keep guys off of each other at practice,” Beres said.
“That’s obviously one of the things that we want to cultivate here. We want to get kids excited to play here, you know, to come through the ranks, you know, and be a Western Reserve Blue Devil,” said first-year Western Reserve head coach John Armeni.
This previous tradition established at the Western Reserve program really makes an impression on you while growing up around the Blue Devils, like Beres.
“I was one of those kids playing football behind the bleachers, I was waterboy. It’s one of those things we want kids to be involved and have a good time and enjoy watching us,” Beres said.
The same goes for junior starting quarterback Luke Henning, who threw for over 500 yards and tallied six total TDs in his first full season with the “dream job” as a sophomore.
“It’s kind of cool when you’re like sixth grade, fifth grade. Watching the high schoolers, you’re like, wow, kind of be like them, you know, go play quarterback, start for the Western Reserve, go out, play Friday nights for the community and just try and make everyone proud,” Henning said.
“For me to the freshman down, I mean, for the whole school, the community, the little kids, like all of them, they enjoy coming out on Friday nights and we’re trying to bring that back,” Beres said.
That kind of feeling is really what drew Armeni to this school.
“You know, this is a special place, small school football at its finest where, you know, young men and women get to grow up in a community. You know, they feel at home in a community and they get to strive for success in a community,” Armeni said.
A way to bring that back starts with the offseason.
“Feel like this year alone, we’ve become closer as a team and a family. The weight room, weight room change. We’re mixing up racks and stuff. Locker room changing as this all brought us together as a family,” said Jake Grindley.
Preparations begin for what many different Blue Devils hope will be another special season.