COLUMBIANA-When Southern Local head coach Mike Skrinjar leads Ohio onto the field at Geneva College Friday in the annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic, he will be surrounded by a number of players who helped him lead the Indians one of the best three-year runs in school history.
Starting for Ohio will be Skrinjar's center-quarterback combo of Logan Hickman and Luke Griffith, while former player Kyle Exline-a 2012 graduate-will be on the sideline as assistant coach. Those three helped lead Southern to the program's first state playoff berth in 2010 as well as the best record in school history (9-1) in 2011.
"I'm so glad to be coaching in this game surrounded by these guys," Skrinjar said. "They've all been great leaders the last three years, and with how successful our program has been they all deserve to be here."
"It's nice having so many familiar faces around," Hickman said. "Luke and I have a great chemistry together, and having other guys who we've played with around has been a lot of fun."
During the 2012 season, Griffith and Hickman teamed up on an offense that averaged 30.9 points per game as the Indians went 6-4 for their third straight winning season. While many all-star games can be sloppy due to lack of familiarity, that should not be a problem for these two.
"It's certainly nice having the same center (Hickman) that I've worked with all year," Griffith said. "As a player, I really don't have to adjust anything, it'll basically be the same thing I've been doing since pee-wee. Logan knows everything about me, and I know everything about him. We have a great chemistry together."
Hickman, a three-year starter for the Indians at center, says the continuity between the two has helped practice run smoothly.
"When you're playing with a new quarterback it's hard to get used to their snap cadence," Hickman said. "It's been nice to hear Luke's voice behind me for the past two weeks."
Having Exline around has been an added bonus.
Exline started at linebacker and tight end for the Indians in 2011, leading the team in tackles and earning second-team Div. V All-Ohio honors. He finished out his high school career by playing in last year's Penn-Ohio game and came off the bench at tight end for Geneva College in the fall. Exline said he never expected to be on the Geneva sidelines as a coach.
"I certainly did not expect it this soon," Exline said. "Coach Skrinjar gave we a call a couple of months ago and asked if I wanted to help out. It's been a lot of fun being back with guys I went to school with."
Exline, who is majoring in education, hopes to one day coach high school football and said the experience should help him as he goes forward.
"It's been great being around guys who have coached for years," Exline said. "I've learned a lot about what it takes to run a team."
Exline is joined on the staff by fellow 2012 graduates Matt Chase and Damin Beadnell. Those three, along with Griffith and Hickman helped lead Southern's resurgence, and will be on the same field together one last time on Friday.
"It took a lot of work by everyone to win the last three years," Griffith said. "We had a great time together and it's really cool to be in this game."