TROY — When he’s not coaching football, Matt Burgbacher spends the better part of his day teaching algebra and geometry to students at Troy High School.
When he threw his arm around offensive line coach Scot Brewer following the Troy football team’s 43-8 win over Belmont in the season opener Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium, Burgbacher repeated a math property he’d been telling his team all week. “You can’t go 2-0 if you don’t go 1-0,” a grinning Burgbacher said to Brewer as they walked off the field together.
While that may sound simple enough, it’s actually a pretty profound statement for a team that entered the season with the lofty expectations that had been foisted upon the 2018 Trojans. This is a team that, for a number of reasons, Troy football fanatics have been waiting to see for years.
Since they were in junior high school, many have been talking about the athletic prowess of this senior class. Throw in some key junior contributors and even a few sophomores here and there and this group of players is a team that had the potential to be mentioned in the same realm of some of the better teams from Troy’s past.
The key word there, however, is “potential.” Potential doesn’t offer any sort of guarantees. There’s not a single team on Troy’s schedule that is going look at Troy’s roster, concede defeat, and lie down for the Trojans. If anything, it will be just the opposite for the next nine (and possibly more) weeks — teams will be looking at Troy to make a name for themselves.
Truthfully, it’s been an incredible turnaround for a Troy team that went 10-30 from 2012-15.
“Teams used to have us circled on the schedule because they thought that was going to be an easy win for them,” Burgbacher said in the preseason. “Now teams are starting to circle us on their schedule because it’s a game they want to win. They want to be the team that knocks us off. But that’s OK. We enjoy that. We’d much rather be that team everyone wants to beat as opposed to being that team everyone assumes they are going to beat.”
In 2016, Troy shocked the state with its incredible comeback, going 10-2, winning its first conference title since 2000 and making the playoffs for the first time since 2011 after going 2-8 in 2015. Last season, Troy was out to prove the previous season wasn’t a fluke — and the Trojans accomplished just that, going 8-3, winning another Greater Western Ohio Conference North title and making the playoffs for the second year in a row.
This year is a little different for the Trojans. They aren’t going to shock anyone if they play well. Everyone has generally accepted neither of the last two years were a fluke. This team has entered the season with colossal expectations. They are supposed to win the GWOC North again. It’s assumed they will be playing in the postseason once again. No one would argue they have the talent to do both of those things.
Some teams may buckle under those sorts of pressures or, at the very least, try to downplay the expectations.
“We embrace pressure,” Burgbacher said. “Every day in your life, you are going to face some sort of pressure,” Burgbacher said before the season started. “You can respond to that pressure positively or negatively. How you respond to that pressure determines what kind of person you are. We don’t look at it as pressure. We look at is as opportunity. We want these types of challenges.”
Troy faced its first one Friday, and came out on the winning end of a blowout contest against a team that made the playoffs in 2017 and gave up just nine points the entire regular season. Troy looked exactly how so many thought it would. That’s merely the first game in what the Trojans hope will be a long and successful season. It’s far too early to crown them with much of anything right now.
How they proceed from here is largely up to the them.
“We can be a very good team,” Burgbacher said. “But we have to keep playing as a team. We’ve got good kids across the board and we’ve got to remember that. We don’t have superstars and we don’t need superstars. We’ve got to stick together. In know it’s a cliche, but we’ve got to keep taking things one week at a time. All we are worried about right now is winning the next game. And then we’ll worry about the next game after that.”
It’s pretty simple math, really.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong