By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher allowed himself to mourn.
But he didn’t allow himself to do it for long.
“That’s probably one of the toughest parts of this job — actually, it’s the toughest part of this job,” the Troy football coach said. “Eventually, the season comes to an end and you’ve got to say goodbye to the kids you’ve coached all year. It’s especially hard to say goodbye to the seniors, because you’ve been with them the longest.
“But you also have to remember that you are still the coach and you still have to get ready for the next season. So you can let yourself hurt for a little while — and with the way this year ended (a 38-35 loss to Cincinnati Anderson in the Division II regional semifinals), it’s going to sting for awhile — but you’ve also got to get back to work.”
Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Burgbacher has very clear plans both in the short term and the long term.
In the short term, he already has started meeting with his coaches, both as a group and individually. As far as the players are concerned, per Ohio High School Athletic Association rules, coaches cannot have official, organized contact with them for 30 days following the last game of the season.
“First, I’ll have my end of the year meeting with all of the coaches,” Burgbacher said. “Then I’ll meet with each one of my coaches individually. It’s a great opportunity to discuss with them not only what worked well, but some things we can improve upon. It’s a great opportunity to not only wrap up the season, but also to get a head start working on next season.
“As far as the kids go, they get 30 days off from our last game. They can still go into the weightroom and work out on their own, of course, but we are not allowed to work with them on any sort of football-specific workouts. Honestly, I think that is a good thing. The kids need a break. Us coaches need a break, too. I want our kids to have a chance to go home after school and relax. We just played 12 games and two scrimmages. We’ve been having camp days and practices since June. They not only need a physical break, but a mental break.”
For Troy’s seniors looking to play college football, Burgbacher said the recruiting process will really ramp up in the next few weeks.
“That’s already started happening,” Burgbacher said. “It’s not unusual for me to get three or four coaches in, wanting to talk about some of our seniors who are looking to play at the next level. A lot of Division II and Division III programs are already done. The Division I regular season will end in the next few weeks. For the next 30 days, up until the early signing day in December, it’s going to be very busy.
“As a high school coach, you want to start getting ready for the next year, but you also want to help the seniors, too. If I can help a young man get to college — and hopefully get some money to pay for college by playing football — I’m going to do that. Our seniors have given so much to this program; I’m going to help them in any way I possibly can.”
As far as preparing for next season, this will be one of the more challenging offseasons in Burgbacher’s four years at Troy, as the Trojans suffer heavy graduation losses on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the Trojans lose seven seniors — record-setting running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop, H-back Spencer Klopfenstein, tackles Jesse Westmeyer and Nathan Garber, guard Marshall Brueckman, slot receiver Shane Shoop and receiver Jacob Shoop. The Trojans do return four starters — quarterback Brayden Siler, center Riley Hubbard, guard Jakob Moorman and receiver Tucker Raskay — along with guard Ethan Freed, who saw extensive playing time this season.
On defense, the losses are even greater, as the Trojans lose nine starters. Gone will be outside linebackers Sam Jackson and Zach Collett, inside linebackers Blake Burton and Shane Shoop,defensive tackles Zach Niswonger and Garrett Jones, cornerback Kobe Feltner and safeties Jacob Adams and Jacob Shoop. The only returning starters will be noseguard Adam DeCerbo and cornerback Weston Smith.
While replacing that many talented players may sound like a daunting challenge, Burgbacher said the Trojans have faced similar situations in the past.
“We just want our guys to be the best players they can be. A few years ago, we lost a great running back in Josh Browder. We never asked Jaydon Culp-Bishop to be the next Josh Browder. We wanted him to be the best Jaydon Culp-Bishop he could be. We lost a pretty good quarterback in Hayden Kotwica. We never asked Sam Coleman to be the next Hayden Kotwica. This year, we didn’t ask Brayden Siler to be the next Sam Coleman or Hayden Kotwica. We just wanted him to be the best Brayden Siler he could be.
“That’s what we want for our kids. We want them to be the best them they can be. We aren’t looking for another Jaydon Culp-Bishop or Same Jackson or Blake Burton or Spencer Klopfestein. All we want is the guys coming in to be the best possible versions of themselves. If they can do that, we’ll be just fine next season.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong