WAPAKONETA – When Travis Moyer became the head coach at Wynford High School in Bucyrus in 1999, he was all of 22 years old with little coaching experience.
In the 13 years that followed, he went 118-28 with nine North Central Conference titles, eight playoff berths and six undefeated regular seasons. When he left, Wynford had a 58-game regular season unbeaten streak.
Two years after stepping aside as the coach for the Royals, Moyer steps into a Wapakoneta program which has become accustomed to success after former coach Doug Frye went back to St. Marys.
In Frye’s four years with the Redskins, he led the team to two of the programs’ six playoff appearances and had the most wins in a four-year stretch of any Wapak coach ever.
A year ago, Wapakoneta went 9-2 overall (8-1 Western Buckeye League) and were the third seed for the playoffs in Division III, Region 10. It lost its playoff game, 41-34, in an overtime thriller against Springfield Shawnee.
This year, Wapakoneta enters the season with many of those same players back and a rejuvenated coach.
“I love coaching,” Moyer said. “It’s an opportunity to work with young people and make a difference not only on the field but off the field. To watch a kid achieve is a great opportunity and a great honor.
“Whenever you talk about a transition coming into a program and being new, it’s a process from building relationships with the staff and the players. And from a football standpoint it’s different schemes, different terminology.”
Essentially, Moyer’s offense (Wing-T) and defense (4-3) aren’t much different from Frye’s – on the surface. However, a new coach always brings some changes.
“The game of football is a simple game when it comes to blocking and tackling,” Moyer said. “It’s the terminology that makes it different from staffs to staffs.
“The thing that impresses me though is the kids have high expectations and have worked hard to try to uphold those expectations.”
Though Wapakoneta lost some big-time players from last year’s team – all-Ohioans Zach Schmerge and Kyle Gonterman for example – the cupboard is far from bare.
The defense alone returns eight starters: Thomas Shoenlein (DE), Corey Crawford (DE), Adam Henderson (LB), Nick Steinke (LB), Jacob Hartman (LB), Cameron Lauck (DB), Kodi Morgan (DB) and Quinn Lotridge. It’s a group highlighted by a very athletic and fast secondary.
On offense, though the team lost a highly successful group, it returns three starters to the line in Blake Pfenning (Sr., 6-4, 290), Wil Rankin (Sr., 5-11, 260), Ethan Saunders (Sr., OL). Meanwhile, three key skill-position players include quarterback Morgan (three-year letterman), Keaton Metz (Sr., 771 rushing yards, 10 TDs/492 catches, 8 TDs last year) and Jared Smith (Sr., TE).
“We lost some very good players from last year’s team, impact kids, kids that were All-Ohioans and had outstanding careers,” Moyer said. “We’ve challenged our younger guys to step up and accept that responsibility and try to fill that role.”
Whether that comes to fruition or not, what Moyer has already witnessed is very good leadership from his seniors. And that is a trait that will go a long way toward keeping the success rolling at Wapakoneta.
“One thing I’ve always wanted to do is give seniors an opportunity to win a championship,” he said. “These seniors went through a transition, they were without a coach for most of a year and they were the ones in the weight room and leading the younger guys and encouraging them. They deserve a lot of the credit in terms of the leadership of this team.”