It has been part of northeast Ohio for more than 70 years.

Nonetheless, the Suburban League, which began play in 1949, shows no signs of slowing down.

Several coaches, administrators and players got together for the fifth annual Suburban League Football Kick Off Luncheon Wednesday at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium.

The Suburban League enters its fifth year as a two-conference, 15-team league.

Former Cuyahoga Falls assistant football coach Tom DiFrancesco hosted the event. The league is sponsored by Blind and Sons of Barberton.

Suburban League commissioner Keith Walker didn’t shy away from talking about the league’s success since the two-conference format was introduced.

"Twelve stadiums now have artificial turf," Walker said. "We had seven students at Suburban League Schools who earned OHSAA and NEDAB (Northeast Ohio District Athletic Board) academic scholarships.

"We also have an amazing group of bands. There are about 2,300 band members who support our football teams. There is nothing like Friday night football in Northeast Ohio."

Just three Suburban League teams reached the playoffs in 2018 after seven league members advanced to the postseason the previous year.

The Suburban League has been handing out all-sports competition trophies since 1976. Recipients of this prestigious award were Wadsworth for the National Conference and Highland for the American Conference.

Walker also welcomed some new faces to the luncheon as teams from both conferences switched administrators and coaches.

Hudson head coach Jeff Gough enters his fourth season. Last year was a new experience for Gough. That’s because the Explorers did not reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Hudson, which reached the state semifinals from 2015-2017, finished 3-7 overall and 3-4 in the National Conference.

"It’s an incredible league," Gough said. "Our competition is, hands down, one of the best leagues in the state."

If the Explorers want to return to their successful ways, putting others above themselves will be vital.

"This game is about sacrifice," Gough said. "What are you going to sacrifice for the guy next to you? What are the coaches sacrificing? The youth coaches, your loved ones, your friends … what did they give up so you can be here?

"The second part is, why are you sacrificing? You want to be successful in life, on the field, building a team, building relationships and so on and so on."

Gough, a longtime assistant coach and former player at Hudson, is still very passionate about his favorite sport. In his eyes, football is the ultimate team game.

"This game is so special," Gough said. "This sport is so special because it’s not the team with the most cheetahs. It’s not the team with the most elephants that march over top of you.

"You won’t find it in any other sport. You have this big ol’ elephant next to this slow turtle. They need each other. That’s what we want."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.