The Tippecanoe Red Devils will enter their first season in the GWOC American North Division with almost an entirely new starting lineup. But if you think they’re are intimidated, think again.
Tippecanoe football fans will need to buy a program when the Red Devils open the season at Graham on August 26th.
“We lost 21 seniors and 19 starters,” said second year coach Joel Derge as he took time from his week off to chat with me Tuesday morning. “We have no starters back on offense, and only three on defense, so this will be a learning season.”
The Red Devils went 10-2 in Derge’s first season, and their last in the Central Buckeye League. They beat Piqua in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to Trotwood in the regional semifinals.
“It’s been a good summer,” Derge said with a smile. “We had a baby (son Jackson) on May 26th, so we have been raising him for 8 weeks and hitting football for 8 weeks, as well. We’ve been in the weight room, working on some speed stuff, we had our 6 camp days and four seven on sevens, and it’s been good to get out and compete with other teams.
“We’ve implemented some new things this summer. We have started a leadership program, we’ve started a mentor program to build unity in the team. We spent the spring teaching our seniors how to be leaders, because I believe that’s a skill. It has to be taught. That’s had a huge impact, because our seniors are more vocal than any group I have coached. They are leading the team instead of the coaches.”
Last year was the Red Devils first after 25 years under Charlie Burgbacher. Derge, who was an assistant under Burgbacher for two years, came in and didn’t change a thing in the summer, something that continued once the season started.
“We stayed true to Red Devil football all season,” Derge said with a laugh. “A guy asked me at the gas station the other day what trick plays we were going to run this season. We don’t do a lot of that here. We teach them down block, reach block and pass block offensively. We teach three fronts defensively. It’s what the kids can execute.”
Red Devil football has, for the past two plus decades, been simple in philosophy. It has also been very successful.
“We want to run the football. We want to stop the run,” explained Derge. “We want to play solid special teams and have no dumb penalties. We want to win the turnover battle every night. We feel like if we do those five things, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”
Derge knows that last year’s senior class will be a tough act to follow.
“That class was the winningest senior class in school history. They won 31 games in three seasons. 31-6 overall. A great group of kids that definitely left their mark. Congratulations to them and the best of luck as they head off to college.
“All those open spots leads to a lot of competition in camp, and that’s a good thing. We have used the summer to get a lot of kids experience and to build some depth at each position. That will shake itself out as we get to our first scrimmage, and everybody is working really hard.”
The Red Devils were an explosive offense a year ago, averaging 39 points a game, and Derge has confidence in this year’s unit.
“Aaron Hughes is going to be our quarterback,” the coach explained. “Normally, we would have competition at that spot, but Aaron has really shined in our seven on sevens. His brother was a three year starter for us, and Aaron is a pitcher and has a lot of those arm skills. Junior Dylan Blair will be his backup. Both guys have worked hard in the off-season to get ready to lead the offense.”
The Red Devils replace Trotwood in the North Division of the newly re-aligned Greater Western Ohio Conference, and Derge said that is a definite step up for his team.
“We want to thank the Central Buckeye Conference and everything they did for us. The GWOC North has some great coaches, some great athletes and some great traditions. There were times last year that our starters didn’t see the field in the fourth quarter. I don’t think that will be the case this season.
“We are familiar with several of those teams. We played Greenville, Piqua and Trotwood last season. I am very familiar with what coach Burgbacher is doing at Troy, and we have had seven on sevens with Sidney the past several years.”
“There aren’t any hour and a half bus rides, which is great. All of our opponents have great facilities and that’s a treat for the kids.
“I think we are respected by the other teams in the division. Trotwood has won the regional title six years in a row, so I don’t blame anyone who is glad to see them out of the division. We aren’t Trotwood, but we will compete every night.”
The Red Devils open the season at Graham, then come home for a Thursday night, September 1st meeting with Springfield Shawnee.
“Everyone is excited about that,” Derge acknowledged. “First it’s an honor to be selected to have your program showcased like that. Everyone is looking forward to that. Shawnee has beaten us five of the last 6 years, including last year when we were unbeaten at their place. They had a quarterback come back from injury who we hadn’t seen on tape, and he had a great night. They scored a last minute touchdown to beat us 35-28.” (the Red Devils only regular season loss.)
The Red Devils host arch-rival Milton-Union in week three, travel to Trotwood in week four, and then host Fairborn. The GWOC Schedule is at Troy, at Greenville, Sidney, at Piqua, and home to Vandalia Butler.
Derge said the Red Devils will be ready for those nights when something different is needed.
“We spend a certain amount of practice time on the run and then the passing game. So if we have a night where we have to throw 23 times like we did against Trotwood in the playoffs, we can do it. We can step out our comfort zone and be successful, but our real keys will be running the ball and controlling the clock.”
It’s a new roster, and a new conference, but don’t be surprised if it’s the same winning results—in Tipp City!