VANDALIA — When others doubted, the Troy football team believed.
When the naysayers said it couldn’t be done, the Trojans said, “Watch us.”
When everyone around town said, “Not yet,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher simply replied “Right now.”
Most people around Troy hoped the Troy football team could turn things around after going 10-30 the past four seasons. At the very worst, some figured it was a lost cause and the halcyon days of Brewer and Bell and Brewer and Dielman were gone forever. At the very best, most of the rest figured it would be a slow rebuilding process that would take several years and be done in incremental steps.
Be competitive in most of the games this year.
Maybe produce a winning record next year.
Hopefully contend for a playoff spot next year.
Just about everyone — save for the coaches and players inside the Trojan locker room — were wrong.
Oh so very wrong.
The Trojans have arrived. Their time is now. Their place is near the top of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division standings, atop the Division II, Region 8 computer standings and in the top 10 of the Division II state football standings.
How did it all happen so fast? How did a team that went 2-8 last year and had been on the wrong end of running clock “mercy rule” games seven times in the past two years turn into a team that is currently 6-1 (2-0 in the GWOC American North) and has, according to some with mathematical abilities that far exceed my own, already clinched a playoff berth?
To hear Burgbacher — in his second year as Troy’s coach — tell it, it was relatively simple.
“We had a group of kids that wanted to win,” he said. “This was a group of kids that was tired of losing. They were sick and tired of having their classmates laugh at them and ask them, ‘How many games are you going to lose this year?’ or ‘How bad are you going to lose this week?’ This is a group of kids that wanted to start winning football games.
“When you have kids with that kind of attitude, it makes it a lot easier for us as coaches. They already had a great attitude. It was just a matter of us taking advantage of that. This group of kids have done everything we’ve asked of them, from the offseason workouts, through our summer camps and into this season. It’s been easy to work with this group.”
Certainly, having the right attitude has helped — but a serious infusion of talent from Troy’s younger players hasn’t hurt. either.
Troy’s seniors are performing as good or better than they have been throughout their careers in the program. A number of juniors are emerging in their first opportunities to shine at the varsity level.
And a bumper crop of sophomores already are making their mark on the program — which should have Trojan faithful excited not only for the remainder of this season, but for seasons to come. At least a half-dozen sophomores have found their way into the starting lineup and are helping take Troy’s program to the next level.
Sam Jackson, the safety who recorded three interceptions against Butler Friday? A sophomore. Kobe Feltner, who recorded a pair of touchdown passes against the Aviators? A sophomore. Spencer Klopfenstein, who caught a touchdown pass Friday and has been Troy’s starting tight end since Week 1? Sophomore. Shane Shoop, who nearly broke several kickoff returns for touchdowns and was a holy terror at inside linebacker? Sophomore. Gage Forsythe, Troy’s 300-pound defensive tackle? Yep, only a sophomore.
Throw in the fact Troy’s freshman team currently is undefeated and the junior varsity team has lost just one game all season, and it’s hard to deny how bright the future of the program is. This isn’t a one-year wonder. This is a team that would appear to be built to last for the long haul.
“We’ve definitely had some of our younger guys step up this season,” Burgbacher said. “You have a guy like Sam Jackson, who is almost like a junior, because he started some varsity games for us as a freshman. You have Spencer Klopfenstein, who has been a starter from the beginning of the season. Then you’ve got some other guys like Kobe and Shane who have worked their way into the rotation and earned playing time.
“When you are able to incorporate those younger guys into the mix with the older, more established guys you’ve already got on your team, you have the potential to do some special things.”
Which is exactly what Troy is doing.
Right here. Right now.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong.