By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — For most players, 10 summer practice days is never enough, and August can’t get here soon enough.
For this year’s Troy Trojans, that feeling is amplified tenfold.
“I think the kids are definitely chomping at the bit,” first-year Troy head coach Dan Gress said. “This whole summer, this program has had a little chip on its shoulder, and the kids are ready to go out and prove themselves.”
They’ll get their chance soon enough.
The Trojans recently completed their 10 summer practice days, including a seven-on-seven scrimmage on the road against a familiar foe. Troy enters this season heading into a new league after winning three straight division championships, as well as a three-year streak of qualifying for the postseason, while having graduated a significant amount of the contributors off of last year’s team that finished 10-2 after falling in the Division II regional semifinal round. Now the Trojans must wait until Aug. 1 for the official start of regular-season practice.
Troy’s final day of summer practice was on July 18 — right in the middle of a brutal heat wave, which gave Troy’s coaches an opportunity to see how their players reacted to adverse conditions.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Gress said. “It got pretty hot the last couple of days. Which was good — we wanted to see how the boys would respond from a mentality standpoint. Our biggest goal was setting that standard for practice that would carry through for the rest of the year, that standard of how we are going to respond when the going gets tough.
“We know what type of team we are when the going is good. We’ve seen that. We wanted to see what type of team we’re going to be when it’s tough, when it’s tied at halftime, when it’s hot out like it was. Because that is what’s going to push us over the edge to that elite level we’re striving for.”
And Gress and his assistants liked what they saw.
“The kids responded very well,” Gress said. “Especially because the other big thing we were pushing was competition, competing at all times, whether it was one vs. one, inside run, whole-team competition, how are they going to respond? And the kids really embraced, enjoyed and bought into the whole best-on-best competition part, wanting to win.
“That was a big thing we talked to them about — it’s not okay to be okay with losing. You should want to win every single rep, and if you don’t (win the rep), come back the next rep, the next play, and go just as hard. And the kids really responded and bought into that, and it was neat to see them competing.”
Before facing the heat head on, the Trojans took on a familiar rival.
On July 11, Troy traveled to Miamisburg for a seven-on-seven matchup, giving the coaching staff a chance to see how this year’s team handled competing against someone else.
“We visited Miamisburg for a seven-on-seven, and the kids really went out there and did some things that us coaches wanted to see,” Gress said. “One thing that stuck out was that we opened up the seven-on-seven with five pretty good passes, went to some open receivers that ran pretty good routes. But with first-time jitters, we dropped our first four footballs.
“When we came back and huddled back up, I was thinking ‘okay, we’re going to see what type of team we are. Are they going to turn on each other right away, or are they going to respond to that adversity?’ And after that, they went out and competed their butts off and performed very well, competed at a level that we coaches were wanting to see.”
Over the past three seasons, the Trojans and Vikings have met often in the regular season, too. in 2016, Miamisburg handed Troy its only two losses of the season, a 21-17 defeat in Week 5 and a 28-21 loss in the regional semifinal round. The Trojans then won the regular-season matchup in 2017, defeating the Vikings 31-21 on the road, then Miamisburg got payback last year with a 31-14 victory in Troy.
“Yeah, we have some history with Miamisburg, you can say that,” Gress said. “It was a neat opportunity to go out there and compete against them again. And it’s always nice to go out and compete against someone that isn’t your teammate.”
Troy will not take on Miamisburg during the regular season this year, having left the Greater Western Ohio Conference for the newly-formed Miami Valley League. Troy’s division of the MVL, the Miami Division, will consist of five teams from Troy’s former division in the GWOC: Troy, Piqua, Tippecanoe, Butler and Greenville. Sidney, the final member of Troy’s old GWOC Division, will play in the Valley Division of the MVL along with Fairborn, Xenia, Stebbins and West Carrollton.
“The team wants to go out and prove ourselves,” Gress said. “Prove ourselves in the new league, prove ourselves with all the new starters we’re going to have, and the returning starters, our senior leaders, want to prove that they’re ready to lead this team.”
The Trojans’ chance will come soon. Two-a-days begin on Thursday, Aug. 1. Troy will open the regular season on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Welcome Stadium against Belmont.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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