The Fort Loramie Redskins recovered from a disastrous start last season to earn a 7th consecutive playoff berth. With two veteran lines, a returning quarterback and a veteran coach staff, the Redskins are again looking for bigger things.
Fort Loramie – Here is a great high school football trivia question for those of you who like such things.
Name the last season the Fort Loramie Redskins had a losing record. The answer, after an appropriate pause, is NEVER!
The Redskins will kick-off their 12th season of varsity football August 26th when they host arch-rival Minster having never lost more games than they won in a season. Break-even 5-5 marks in that first season of 2005 and again in 2009 are the worst in program history.
Not too shabby for what most people would call a “basketball” school.
“Football is becoming more important here, it really is,” said Redskins coach Whit Parks last week during a break in preparation for two-a days. “There have been several playoff appearances (7 in a row) and the support has been tremendous. There is a group of football boosters that started this program 11 years ago, raised the money and built the facilities here. They did that because they wanted football in Fort Loramie, and the interest has really started to grow.”
That playoff streak almost ended in 2015. Parks, who previopusly coached at Minster for 7 seasons, came out of retirement to take the job after Matt Burgbacher left after 6 highly successful seasons to become the head coach at Troy.
The Redskins promptly dropped their first four games under Parks, getting out-scored 126-34 in the process.
“It was a real difficult start,” Parks agreed. “First of all, our schedule was real tough. (Minster, Fort Recovery, Bluffton and Riverside finished a collective 40-10, and Recovery won the D-VII state championship.) After that, we changed our offense, moved some people around, and things started to click. We didn’t throw anybody under the bus. We stayed positive and to their credit, the kids stayed with us.”
The Redskins won their final 6 games, including a 35-19 blowout of arch-rival Lehman to grab the 8th and final playoff spot in Region 26. While the post-season ride was short (a 30-7 loss to Minster), it was a memorable finish to what could have been a disaster.
“Our kids really now believe in what we are doing,” continued Parks, who is beginning his 37th season in coaching. They can see that what we do makes a difference. Overall it was a rewarding year.”
Last year to this year is like night and day for Parks and his staff.
“I think any coach will tell you that year two is much, much easier. Everyone knows what to expect and there are no surprises. The kids have a great approach and we have had a great commitment from them through the winter, spring and now summer. These kids love football, they really do. And that makes it fun to present football to them and teach football because they want all that you can give them.
“The emphasis in our program is blocking and tackling. We want to be a physical football team. We are run-oriented on offense, and that was the difference last season. We committed to the run, and that then opened up the passing game. Our kids play hard and they don’t back down from anybody, regardless of the score.”
The Redskins don’t go in for a lot of exotic looks defensively.
“We run a 4-3 defense,” continued Parks. “We want to be sound on that side of the ball. With all the multiple offenses you see today, it’s important to line up right and makesure everybody is where they are supposed to be. We have found that if you want your guys to play fast on defense, they better know what they are doing and not have to do too much thinking.”
Austin Siegal will return to run the Redskins offense after missing the second half of 2015 with an ACL Injury.
“Austin will be a real key for us,” Parks noted. “He has played well in our seven on sevens and doesn’t seem to be bothered by the knee at all. You worry about the mental part of coming back from an injury like that, but Austin has handled it very well.
“Our interior lines will be the real strength of our team. We have several guys back on both sides of the ball that played a lot last season. But, like everybody else, we have some gaps to fill. Our young guys are going to have to get ready in a hurry, because our schedule is the same as it was last year. It’s a little daunting, but our kids are excited about it so we’ll see what we can do.”
With 45 players on the roster, Parks will be looking to building some depth prior to that opener with Minster.
“We have some good quality players up front, but we don’t have a lot of depth on our lines, which is a concern. We have to stay healthy. You only have so many key guys, so many play-makers. You have to keep them on the field.”
The Redskins shared the Northwest Central Conference title with Riverside last season, and would like to win one more trophy before joining the Cross County Conference next season.
“It’s a good conference, a balanced conference,” explained Parks, noting that Lehman and Riverside also advanced to post-season play. “It’s tough week in and week out. The schools are similar, which makes for great competition every week. There is a lot of talent returning in the league, so it should be a good season.
As mentioned, Parks came out of retirement to take the Loramie job. He said the area itself is one of the main reasons he came back.
“My son (Ty) is an assistant here, so the chance to coach with him was certainly part of it. But this area is special. My wife and I talked about if this was where we wanted to end up. We enjoyed it when we were here before. It’s kind of a throwback area where the community revolves around the church and school, and that was appealing to us as we live our lives. In today’s world, you just don’t find that very often any more.”
Returning talent, veteran coaching staff, and a community that loves football. It’s a recipe for success—in Fort Loramie!