High School Sports

Commentary | Spring football games usher in new season

Saint Stephen's football team went winless last season, which was coach Tod Creneti's first on the Falcons sideline.

The Falcons didn't play a spring game last year, as well, though Creneti didn't think there was a link between the two.

"We saw this as a building process, and the spring gave us a chance to work with the kids who were there," he said. "We're a much more athletic team right now, we're a much bigger team right now and kids have joined as they've seen good things happening. You come into a situation and do good work where you can."

That said, Creneti's Falcons are ready for today's 7 p.m. kickoff against Imagine School of North Port at Palma Sola Park.

It's a spring football game. And spring football games, while not essential, are helpful piece of the puzzle supplied to the teams here in Florida.

Spring football, like everything else, may be here because of the money. Another month of football means another game on the schedule, which means another chance to sell tickets and hot dogs and sodas.

I understand that.

But stripped of all the monetary values, spring football, or should I say the game, is full of perks.

It gives those on-the-fence guys a chance to see if the game is really for them. If a dozen kids come out in the spring and decide they don't want to play football, coaches aren't left scrambling to fill roster spots because the season is about two months away.

If a dozen kids quit in middle of August, that's a different story.

The spring game gives a coaching staff a jump heading into the summer. The game is purely an exhibition, one with no bearing on district standing or national rankings. It's a great time to experiment, and it's an experiment most coaches enjoy conducting, seeing as how it's absolutely harmless if something doesn't go completely right.

What hurts a team in May may help a team in September.

Spring football has a cleansing effect, too. The season may start during the first official practice in August and it really gets underway during Week 1, when everything starts to matter.

But for the schools like Saint Stephen's, or Braden River, who struggled last fall, it offers a first step toward a new and boundless future.

And for teams such as Manatee, fresh off a state championship, it's time to forget about last year and focus on this one.

It's a time of the year when most people are slapping their heads and wondering, "More football? Really?"

A reasonable response, especially if this isn't your sport.

But spring football is more than just a few extra weeks of practice and one extra exercise under the lights -- it marks the beginning of a new year.

Forget the schedule. The 2012 season has already begun.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2097.