ST. MARYS – The last football game Doug Frye coached was a thrilling home playoff game at Wapakoneta which ended in a 41-34 overtime loss to Springfield Shawnee.
It capped a remarkable 9-2 season and the Redskins were looking at returning a slew of top players who primed for years of success ahead.
On Friday, Frye is trying to break a 21-game losing streak for St. Marys when the Roughriders plays host to Sidney.
“At Wapak, we thought our best teams were ahead of us,” said Frye, who returned to St. Marys after four years at Wapakoneta, where he posted the best four-year record (33-10) in the program’s history and reached the playoffs twice. “I look in the mirror some times and ask, ‘Why’d you do this?’ I honestly would not have done this if it were anywhere else, I would not have left that situation.”
But the luster of returning to St. Marys was just too much.
Afterall, from 1998-2008, Frye went 89-35 as the Roughriders’ head coach, reaching the playoffs seven times and claiming state runner-up in 2004.
But it’s a vastly different situation now. St. Marys’ records in the past four years were 5-5, 1-9, 4-6, 0-10 and 0-10.
And while Frye admits it’s a huge challenge to get the ship righted, the situation is far from hopeless.
“Obviously this is a big challenge,” Frye said. “But there has been a lot of success here in the past. So you do have a community filled with people who do know what it takes to be successful. I tell the kids, ‘here is what we’re going to do’ and as we do them, we’ll get the program back where it should be.”
St. Marys does have a few positives working in its favor since Frye’s return: pulling in a fantastic coaching staff; and a massive improvement in the number of athletes going out for football.
Last year, the varsity roster had 40 players and this year the team is at 71 – not including freshmen. The eighth-grade team last year had 14 players but this year, the freshman team is up to 37, giving St. Marys 108 total kids playing high school football.
“The No. 1 thing we wanted to do was get kids interested in football again,” Frye said. “And obviously the numbers speak for themselves.
“Honestly, it has nothing to do with me, I attribute that to our coaches. We had an advantage here because I had been here before so the kids knew from their relatives and the community what to expect. But the fact we can get those types of numbers is not typical with the lack of success we’ve had. But it shows they want to be successful and they’re working hard.”
Still, it has been a major teaching job for Frye and his staff because many of the players either haven’t played much lately, or in some cases, none at all.
Everything from warmups to entering the field to practice is being taught and re-taught.
And the top lesson is teaching his players every day is a new one and there’s work to be done.
“We have an old lunch box right by our door, and every day our kids have a wristband they take off and lock in the lunchbox as we go to practice because we’re going to work that day,” Frye said. “They have to understand the habits you need to be successful and that’s what we’re really trying to do is change habits.”