Five months ago. November 4, 2016.
While it may seem like a while for some, for those who are returning within Massillon's football program, that date has been right in front of them every day since then. For those Tigers, it's the date that has pushed them through each rep in the weight room and sprint in the Paul L. David Athletic Training Center they've had since then.
It's the date they saw their 2016 season come to a stunning end with a first-round playoff loss to Dublin Scioto. One moment, they were thinking big things about a long run through November; the next, it was all gone.
What that abrupt ending did do was light a fire under those who return, something that has been noticeable to those who help oversee Massillon's strength and conditioning program.
"Our kids are grinding," said J.P. Simon, one of Massillon's two strength coaches, along with Terrance Roddy. "They've been doing it every day. Since 30 days after the season, we've put the gas pedal down and haven't let up."
It's been a team-wide get-after-it attitude that has permeated in the weight room since the Tigers have been permitted to hold organized workouts following the mandatory 30-day no-contact period. It started with a slightly different approach by Roddy and Simon to the start of the offseason through a high-intensity introduction before even getting to the lifting portion.
However, what that has done is show the Tiger strength coaches who truly wants to be around the program. Nowhere has that been more evident than among the juniors of the 2016 season who are on their way to becoming the seniors of the 2017 campaign.
"I think it's huge knowing that everybody wasn't satisfied with the results of last season," Roddy said. "They're attacking it with an attitude. Especially the juniors who are going to be seniors; they're really stepping up and being leaders and taking charge. Most high-school teams go as far as the seniors. It's huge that you have great senior leadership in a football program, or any program in general."
That leadership, though, isn't something that just starts with a snap of the fingers. Tiger head coach Nate Moore had been reluctant in the early months of 2017 to single out those players who he felt were becoming leaders, citing the limited amount of time which had passed in those previous conversations.
However, with the offseason now several months old, those leaders are beginning to show themselves. For Simon, he believes the reason why is because of the intensity of the training regimen the Tigers have gone through so far.
"You develop that through the weight room," Simon said. "You can't hide. You can't hide once you get in the squat rack. We see who the leaders are; we see who's here every day. It really shows itself in that kind of environment."
The first preseason practice is still almost four months away, but the tune-ups Massillon will have in advance of the regular season are all set. Two of the three scrimmages - at Avon (Aug. 8) and at home vs. Berea-Midpark (Aug. 12) - remain the same from last season.
However, the Tigers' final scrimmage, the preview, has been changed. The quality of competition, though, hasn't changed at all.
The Tigers will complete their preseason on Aug. 18 with a home scrimmage against St. Edward. The Eagles, who won back-to-back Division I state championships before finishing 9-3 a year ago and losing to archrival St. Ignatius in the regional finals, replace Moeller in that spot.
This year's scrimmage will be played in game conditions, save for kickoffs and punts. Since it's the third scrimmage, by OHSAA rules, a small admission is charged to all fans attending.
It's not the first time St. Edward and Massillon have matched up in a scrimmage. For several years during Jason Hall's tenure, the two program routinely met in the first scrimmage of the preseason, an event which was routinely a very physical affair.
There's always been common synergy between football and track. It's hard to imagine a sport which serves as a better method to help a potential football player improve in the offseason than what track can do.
Massillon's coaches understand that fact. Many of the Tiger football players have become members of the track team this spring, using the workouts as a way to improve their speed for the fall.
"Our big goal this offseason was to get fast," strength coach J.P. Simon said. "What better way to do that than through the track program. When we were playing here, (former Massillon coach Rick Shepas) was also the track coach. So all the linemen were up throwing the shot; we weren't sitting around eating Cheetos. The fast guys like (strength coach Terrance) Roddy were up on the track sprinting. It was speed development. Track's been awesome."
Massillon football coach Nate Moore had stated previously that he and boys track coach Klifton Scott had worked together to form a schedule where the track athletes and football players lift together immediately after school. After the lifting, they all then move to the track complex, where they work on their individual events, be it on the track or in field events.
The immediate benefit lies in improved numbers for the track team. Moore, though, hope it also means a faster football team in the fall as well.
Thursday figures to be an interesting day for a number of football programs around the state. That's the day the OHSAA will release the divisional breakdowns for the fall sports, including football.
What makes it interesting is that it will be the first time the new competitive-balance measures are utilized. Thursday will be the first time those adjusted enrollments are revealed for football, volleyball and boys and girls soccer.
In a very brief synopsis, basically, there are multipliers - for lack of a better term - added based on where the students have come from since the seventh grade and where he or she as well as at least one parent of that student reside. The students for whom it will impact the most, at least in public schools, are those who are open-enrollment students who have never moved into the district. For the private schools, it goes to whether or not the student has been enrolled in the private school system since at least seventh grade, then on to whether or not they came through the school's designated feeder schools.
Long story short, those adjusted numbers could bump some schools up a division. Or, because of the number of schools sliding up because of an adjusted enrollment figure larger than what it originally was, could see a school or two slide down.
Regardless, Thursday's announcement by the OHSAA is one many are awaiting. The actual playoff regions for each division, though, won't be announced until June.
Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE