By David Fong
TROY — There was an unmistakable sound emanating from Troy Memorial Stadium Saturday morning.
It was the sound of pads popping.
And, for the several hundred fans who showed up for the Troy football team’s second annual Scarlet and Gray Game intrasquad scrimmage, the cacophony of grunts, groans and teenagers running into one another at full speed was music to their ears.
High school football teams began practice Monday, but Saturday was the first day they were allowed full contact in practices. Troy coach Matt Burgbacher decided to mark the occasion by putting his players on the lush, green grass inside venerable Troy Memorial Stadium and let them play against one another in a scripted scrimmage.
“It was great getting out here in Troy Memorial Stadium,” Burgbacher said. “To get out here and have a game-like situation; it was great for our kids. We saw some good things today and we saw some bad things. But the best thing we saw was great effort by our kids.
“Three things we’re preaching this year are effort, attitude and enthusiasm — and I thought our kids had it. Yeah, we made mistakes, but you know what? We can fix all of those mistakes.”
Defense ruled the day for both the Scarlet and Gray teams, as neither allowed the opposing offense to score during the varsity portion of the scrimmage. That the defense was ahead of the offense should come of little surprise, considering it returns eight starters from last season, while the offense is replacing a record-setting quarterback in Hayden Kotwica and a breakout star at running back in Josh Browder, both of whom graduated last spring.
“Defensively, I liked the aggressiveness we had,” Burgbacher said. “It took two or three plays, but after that, I thought the defense was the aggressor … and we kind of figured that, with the number of guys we’ve got returning from last year’s team. So they’ve got a lot of Friday-night experience.”
Which isn’t to say the offense wasn’t without its bright spots Saturday. Judging by the number of snaps they took Saturday, senior Sam Coleman seems to have taken the lead in the race to replace Kotwica, while sophomore Brayden Siler and junior Jacob Adams split reps with the No. 2 offense. At running back, juniors Shane Shoop and Jayden Culp-Bishop received the bulk of the carries.
During the junior varsity portion of the scrimmage, sophomore tight end Gage McCann hauled in a pair of long touchdown receptions.
“Offensively, at quarterback I thought Sam Coleman made some real nice decisions,” Burgbacher said. “But again, it’s a process. It’s a daily process. It’s a daily process with him and its a daily process with our offensive line. We’ve got two guys we’ve got to replace on the offensive line, so we’re tinkering with things there.
“Same thing with our skill guys on the outside. We got a lot of guys reps, and all of those things will play out here in the next two or three weeks. But again, I thought he execution was good. Guys were where they were supposed to be, now they’ve just got to finish it. Those are things we can fix.”
The Scarlet and Gray Game brought a close to the first week of practice; Burgbacher said he liked what he saw out of his team in the first week.
“The first week of practice, every day when we left that practice field, we became a better football team,” Burgbacher said. “And again, that’s all you can ask, because it’s a daily process. We’re not focused on Trotwood right now, or anybody else. We’re focused on ourselves, and each day, our kids have invested in themselves and we’ve become a better football team.
“You know, you look back three weeks ago or four weeks ago when we started camp, we were not a very good football team. But you know what? The kids have had great effort, they’ve got a great attitude and they’ve had some enthusiasm. And those three things will take you a long way. Now, speaking from today, Aug. 5, we are beaucoup amounts better as a football team than where we were.”
Troy will travel to Reynoldsburg Aug. 12 for its next scrimmage, then host Dunbar Aug. 18 in the final scrimmage of the preseason. Troy opens the regular season Aug. 25 at Trotwood-Madison.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong