By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher couldn’t help but notice the difference.
It was all around him.
“What a beautiful day,” the Troy football coach said, a smile stretching across his unshaven face. “It felt like the sun was shining a little brighter. It felt like the air was a little cooler. It definitely feels a little different. We know this is it.”
Monday, Troy officially began the defense of its Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title as it — along with every other high school football team in Ohio — opened football practice for the 2017 season. Teams were allowed to practice in helmets only Monday. They will be allowed to practice in helmets and shoulder pads Wednesday, in full pads Friday and in full pads with contact Saturday.
“Any time you start something new, there’s going to be a certain level of excitement,” Burgbacher said. “There were 719 teams in the state of Ohio that started practice (Monday), and every single one of them is on a level playing field right now. Everyone is 0-0.”
Troy comes into summer practice with more momentum than it has had in quite some time. The Trojans went 10-2 last year, winning its first division title and its first playoff game since 2000. While those accomplishments were nice, however, Burgbacher wants to make sure his team doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the past.
“We will reference things that have happened with past teams, but we know we can’t spend too much time thinking about them, because this is a new year,” Burgbacher said. “This group of seniors has been part of two teams that weren’t very good and then part of a team that was very good. What was the difference? Why is that? Was it talent? Was it leadership?
“We can learn from those things, but ultimately, this is a new season. We need to take control of what kind of season we are going to have this year.”
While Troy lost some key players who played major roles last season, the Trojans do return eight starters on offense and five on defense. That — coupled with a strong two-week camp showing in the middle of July — had his team ahead of schedule going into the first practice, Burgbacher said.
“The thing we are really excited about is that we had 10 great days of camp, and this is really just a continuation of what we did in camp,” Burgbacher said. “We are much further along than where we thought we would be. Right now, we are just working on making sure we get better every single day.”
Scarlet and Gray Game
Fans can get their first look at the Troy football team — all of them, actually — this Saturday at Troy Memorial Stadium at the annual “Scarlet and Gray Game,” an intrasquad scrimmage.
This year, for the first time, the game will feature every football program from junior high through high school varsity. The Troy Junior High School teams will scrimmage against one another beginning at 10:15 a.m. The Troy varsity players will scrimmage at 10:45 a.m. and the junior varsity and freshman teams will scrimmage against one another at 11:15 p.m.
Following the scrimmages, Burgbacher will host a “meet the team” portion of the day beginning sometime between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m.
Also, the Troy Football Parents Association will be selling spirit wear at the scrimmage.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong