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.

One of those new faces is Mike Hay, who took over as Tallmadge’s head coach. Hay replaces Alan Vanderink, who became the head coach at Kent Roosevelt, an American Conference rival.

Although Hay is a head coach for the first time, he is no stranger to the Blue Devils. The former Tallmadge tailback had been an assistant coach with the team since 2002.

"I have the rare opportunity to be a head coach of the school I played for," Hay said. "It is something that is special. I just love our kids. I love the hard-working, overachieving attitudes our kids have."

The Blue Devils finished 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the American Conference despite very low numbers. Tallmadge reached the postseason in 2017.

"Culture is so big," Hay said. "We're in a good spot. We have such great senior leadership from these guys.

"A number of guys who graduated last year were multi-year starters. We would be in a dangerous spot if we didn't have that senior leadership we have this year. We have a number of kids who are willing to step up and take over."

The Blue Devils are looking forward to playing on the turf of its new stadium later this summer. Unfortunately, Tallmadge won’t be able to take snaps at its new facility when practice begins Thursday. That’s because some repairs are needed on the stadium’s track.

"We are in a weird stage," Hay said. "We have kids not far from us who don't know where their next meal is coming from. We're not going to complain about not having our multi-million dollar facility on day one.

"Our taxpayers are very excited to see it. We're going to do our best to represent those people to the best of our ability."

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