By David Fong
TROY — The Troy football team wasn’t exactly where coach Matt Burgbacher had hoped it would be when it officially opened practice Monday.
The Trojans were beyond even Burgbacher’s own lofty expectations.
“Offensively and defensively, we are way ahead of schedule,” Burgbacher said.
Troy was one of 10 teams in the area and one of hundreds throughout the state to begin football practice Monday, per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules. Teams were allowed 10 camps days during the summer, which Burgbacher said his team was able to use to full effect to get ready for the start of practice.
“You know, it’s kind of funny, everyone makes a big deal about the first official practice — but we’ve been working hard all summer and, really, the entire offseason,” Burgbacher said. “The kids have been working hard in the weightroom all winter. Then we had 10 very good camp days. We are carrying over what we did in camp to what we are doing now. Really, the only difference is we are able to practice longer now.”
This will be Burgbacher’s fourth season leading the Trojans. After going 2-8 his first season, Troy went 10-2, won a Greater Western Ohio Conference American League North Division title and made the Division II regional semifinals his second year. Last year, Troy went 8-3, won the GWOC North for the second year in a row and again qualified for the playoffs.
Going into his fourth season — and his fourth set of preseason practices — Burgbacher said the team knows exactly what the expectations are every year.
“There’s a familiarity with the kids and the system that I think is paying dividends,” he said. “We’ve lost some very good players to graduation, but the key to that is having guys who are ready to jump in and play. One thing I think we’ve done a very good job of the past few years is getting our younger guys reps — not necessarily in games, but in practice.
“A big thing in the way we practice is making sure are young guys are getting as many reps as our older guys, so when their time comes, they know what to do. You can especially see that on defense. When we make a stunt call, our younger guys know what they need to do, so when they are juniors or seniors, they know exactly what we want them to do. It’s the same way with our coverages — we want every guy in our system to know exactly what they are supposed to do.”
Only a few days into practice, one thing Burgbacher said he’s been impressed by is his team’s depth and the competition at every position.
“Our kids have the opportunity to go out and compete,” he said. “I don’t think anyone should feel safe as a starter, because we’ve got kids who are pushing one another every single day in practice. That’s a good thing, because it makes everyone work harder, which makes our team better.”
Troy football fans will have their first opportunity to see the team in action Saturday at Troy Memorial Stadium as the Trojans will once again host their Scarlet and Gray intrasquad scrimmage, a tradition started under Burgbacher. The Troy Junior High School players will take the field at 9:30 a.m, followed by the high school team at 10:30 a.m. A meet-the-team event will follow at 11:30 a.m.
“I think this is a great opportunity for fans to see our team for the first this year,” Burgbacher said. “We want people to get excited about the upcoming season.”
Also this year will be the return of the Troy Football Alumni Golf Outing, which will begin at 1:30 pm. Saturday at Miami Shores Golf Course.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong