If the unaffected choose not to believe, Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher is willing to address the prevailing issue. The Trojans are going to be better. And yes…football is going to matter again.
If you want to get the pulse on all things Troy stroll into K’s Hamburger Shop just off the square and have lunch. For while all things “official” happen at the courthouse a couple of blocks away, it’s at K’s where you hear what “the people” really think.
And so it was back in June when I asked a patron next to me at the counter if he was anticipating Trojan football come fall.
“I don’t guess,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been to a game since Nolan left. Things are changin’ and I don’t know if football matters like it did.”
Whoa! Holy Bob Ferguson, Tommy Vaughn, and Ryan Brewer. How can football not matter in Troy in just five years since the aforementioned Steve Nolan stepped aside after a quarter century of coaching and 200 wins? You’re telling me things have changed that much?
But alas, the three years immediately following Nolan were regrettable, forgettable, for former player and assistant, Scot Brewer.
Wins diminished, just 8 against 22 losses in three seasons.
Numbers diminished. Accustomed to dressing as many as 80 (including freshmen) on Friday nights at the height of Nolan’s tenure, by 2014 the roster numbered in the 50s.
And yes, from the number of people who seemed to come to Memorial Stadium on Friday night disguised as empty seats…attendance followed suit.
If football, indeed, was a integral part of Troy’s tapestry, it’s culture, one could make the argument that those colors had, in just three years, faded.
Enter Matthew Burgbacher, son of Charlie, the long-time coach at Tipp who turned the Red Devils into winning consistency at the height of football quality in the Central Buckeye League…against the likes of Bellefontaine, Shawnee, Urbana, and Kenton Ridge.
Burgbacher (2.0) coached under Burgbacher (1.0) for five years before taking the head position in 2009 at fledgling Ft. Loramie. And guess what? Within two years the Redskins were beating people that heretofore they had no business of even playing…Minster and New Bremen from the MAC, and even tradition-rich Lehman.
The post-season playoffs became routine.
Numbers in the program and in the Friday night stands increased.
The basketball-rich tradition of a community suddenly expanded as success begat success, which in turn begat expectation. In just three years at Loramie under Matt Burgbacher…football suddenly mattered!
He applied for, and got, the vacant Troy job in the spring of 2015, seeking a new challenge and finding it in a position which he termed, “too good to pass up”, vowing a change in attitudes and work ethic.
Careful what you wish for, eh? The cliches’ became more numerous than wins, just two in ten games in 2015, albeit for lack of luck and about 10 well-timed points, against Northwest, Xenia, and Butler, Burgbacher might well have claimed a .500 season.
But that’s football, as Burgbacher and the Trojans worked this week in preparation for their scrimmage debut on Saturday morning against Reynoldsburg. He starts his second season with renewed enthusiasm, optimism, and a vow that for at least now only he can quantify.
“I guarantee you we’re 100% better than we were at this point last year,” he says. “I don’t know how many wins that means, but we’re way ahead of where we were back then. Kids know the expectations. They know the system. We had our full offense package in during camp. Now we’re working hard to perfect what we know we can do.
“We’ve got a veteran quarterback who threw for more than two thousand yards last year (Hayden Kotwica) and he could have an even better season this year. He’s stronger, he’s making better reads, and he’s faster. Our quarterback is going to run the ball, and as good a thrower as he his, Hayden’s feet are his best asset.”
That means, of course, that Burgbacher’s tradition with the Wing-T offense will be either be modified, or set aside altogether. Not as running back-rich as Troy’s old tradition might dictate, he confesses that he has to (and will) mix things up.
“We have to run the ball, and run the ball more effectively than we did last year,” says Burgbacher. “But I like our backs (senior Marc Scordia and sophomore Sam Jackson) and we have all but one of our skill position players back from last year. I’d like to think we’ll be 50-50.”
So while he isn’t predicting how many wins in year two, Matt Burgbacher is certain that he’s not only ahead of last year, but ahead of where many others are willing to project.
“I don’t know how many wins because we play a tough schedule,” he assures. “But we will not be the weak link of the GWOC North this year. We’re going to be a good football team because we’ve got a year under our belts and we’re familiar with the kids now. We know what they can do, and we know who we are as a football team.”
And to anyone who questions whether football still matters in Troy, he’s got an angle on that, too.
“Look, good football is hard to build, but it’s even harder to keep,” says Burgbacher. “And I think that’s where things were when Coach Nolan left. Now we’re in a position to build again.
“He (Nolan) came to our practice today and talked to the kids about how much Troy, and Troy football means to him…because it’s his home, where he worked, where his kids went to school. Steve Nolan is still very proud of this program. He’s part of the tradition. We want him to be part of the ‘build’.”
Ferguson, Vaughn, Brewer…Nolan!
So yes. It does matter.
Lest anyone, anywhere, wonder. Or forget.