MANSFIELD — Mike Redding and his Mansfield High School football team relish the challenges of playing Hockomock League and non-league, intra-state foes.
The Hornets have not shied away from taking their program on the road. Such is the case this weekend for the Hornets, who visit Cincinnati, Ohio, to play powerhouse LaSalle High School.
The Lancers of LaSalle, an all-boys parochial school with over 600 as an enrollment, have already played two games and scored 31 points in each, blanking Mason High last weekend and limiting Lakota West to one touchdown in their season opener.
The Hornets will board a bus from Mansfield High School around 6:30 a.m. Thursday for Logan Airport and fly Southwest Airlines out to Columbus, Ohio, for the Friday night encounter at 7 p.m. — for which LaSalle football coach Pat McLaughlin anticipates a crowd of over 5,000.
The Hornets, some 66 players, 13 staff members and nearly 70 parents and friends will be heading to Ohio for the game — the logistics of which in obtaining airline seats, hotel reservations, transporting equipment and arranging for educational experiences along the way have been in the works for months.
The Hornets will be visiting the campus of The Ohio State University, enjoying a barbecued ribs dinner at the “world famous” Montgomery Inn ($12.99 for the pulled pork BBQ sandwich), visit the Cincinnati Bengals’ stadium, visit the National Underground Railroad Museum, and attend the Notre Dame season-opening football game in Indiana on Saturday against New Mexico.
“We really don’t have to ship that much equipment,” Redding said, because LaSalle will be providing tape, water bottles and ancillary sideline supplies.
“With Southwest Air, you’re allowed two free checked bags, which is huge,” Redding said of his staff taking footballs, headphones, tees, gloves etc. in their secondary bags. “We’re really not bringing a lot of stuff.”
The Hornets will practice Thursday night at St. Xavier High in Cincinnati, about eight miles from LaSalle High. “The kids are all looking forward to the ribs dinner Thursday night, and the Railroad Museum is supposed to be very interesting,” Redding said. The Hornets will stop in front of Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Bengals, for commemorative photographs.
After the game on Friday, the Hornets will depart en masse for a four-hour ride to South Bend, Indiana, to watch the Fighting Irish football team.
After the contest against the Lobos, the Hornets will head to Chicago for overnight accommodations there, and then depart from Midway Airport Sunday morning for the return home.
“We’ve been very fortunate throughout the process of scheduling this,” Redding said of Southwest arranging for the entire Mansfield High team, staff and parents to fly on one plane out of Boston. “They got us a great deal,” Redding said, with the Hornets wanting to project the per-individual flight cost to be at $300. However, the fares were significantly lower, and “then the Marriott gave us a great deal, with three kids in a room for both nights that we’re in Cincinnati,” he added. “We were really able to keep costs down.”
With contributions from the Mansfield High Gridiron Club and any number of team fundraisers since the conclusion of the 2018 Hornet football season, the per-individual cost was well under $300 for transportation and hotel rooms.
Even better, when the ticket office at the University of Notre Dame heard of the Hornets’ plans to take in their season opener, complimentary tickets were provided for the team and staff, while parents and friends were offered a discounted group rate for tickets.
“Notre Dame was over-the-top helpful,” Redding said.
“The only downer to all of this is that the weather forecast for the Cincinnati area on Friday is going to have temperatures in the 90s,” added the Hornet mentor.
LaSalle High plays in a tremendously competitive Catholic League, having a running back committed to Northwestern, a kicker committed to Ohio State, and three other top-flight NCAA Division I prospects.
“That league is one of the better leagues in the country, all of the teams (including fabled Moeller High) are really good,” Redding said. “We’re going to have our hands full, but we believe that we can hold our own against them.
“I think the big thing about this trip and having played Boston College High last week (a 31-10 win) is that we come home and have a bye week,” Redding added. “That would have been two very good tests for us against good competition so that we’ll be ready to roll into (Hockomock) league play.”