ST. MARYS – The job is familiar. The town and the stadium are too.
But Doug Frye found something new when he officially took over the St. Marys football program he left five years ago when he was approved as the Roughriders coach at a board of education meeting Wednesday night.
“This is only the second time I’ve been in this building,” he said, standing a few feet from a trophy case that contained some of the awards won by past St. Marys teams.
Frye’s return after four very successful seasons at Wapakoneta reverses a move he made in 2010, when he left St. Marys to go to one of its biggest rival.
Since then, St. Marys has upgraded to a new high school building, but the football program has taken a sharp downward turn.
After Frye left St. Marys, the Roughriders went 5-5, 1-9, 4-6, 0-10 and 0-10. They have a current 21-game losing streak that stretches back to the 2011 season.
Wapakoneta was 33-10 with two trips to the playoffs the last four seasons.
“It’s good to be home. This decision was made with the heart. We built a very good program next door. From my head standpoint, there would have been a lot of reasons to stay, but my heart said we needed to get this thing straightened out. This is home,” Frye told a large crowd at the board of education meeting.
Later, he said, “Maybe I just like challenges, and I’ve got quite a one on my hands now. We’ve had some hard times but I think we’re ready to get back on the right track.”
The board of education voted 4-1 to hire him, with new member Bob Valentine casting the “no” vote.
St. Marys was 89-35 in 11 seasons from 1998-2008 for Frye the first time he was there. The Roughriders were state runner-up in 2004 and went to the playoffs seven times.
When he left, the expectations created during the decades-long success St. Marys had with Skip Baughman as its coach were still strong. Baughman ended his career by winning state championships in three of his last four seasons – 1990, 1992 and 1993.
Frye, who continued to live in St. Marys while coaching at Wapakoneta, knows he is inheriting a different situation this time.
“The first thing I have to do is get a staff put together. Your coaching staff is your key. I’m going to take about a week and get the varsity staff put together and then start working through the other levels. Then I think you need to tell kids there’s hope,” he said.
“It may not be immediate. Our kids have lost 21 in a row. But after a coaching staff, the second thing would be building confidence in our kids.”
Frye didn’t exactly leave a burning ship at Wapakoneta. He would have had seven starters back on both sides of the ball from a team that went 9-2 and reached the playoffs. And the Redskins’ combined record from junior high through varsity last fall was 36-4.
“There would have been no other job that I considered,” he said.
Frye said he has made a commitment to coach St. Marys at least three years.
“How long it will be, I don’t know. We discussed three years and after that we’ll see what happens,” he said.
It should be interesting when St. Marys and Wapakoneta meet on the football field in the fall.
Frye had been on the winning side in that game 13 of the 15 times he has coached in it. St. Marys beat Wapakoneta nine of 11 times his first time at St. Marys and the Redskins swept the last four games against the Roughriders.