ST. MARYS — It is Monday afternoon and the St. Marys locker room is stirring around.
Players began to get ready for a light practice and film study session. Inside the coach’s office, Doug Frye is pouring over film on his next opponent, Cincinnati Wyoming, a team he knows little about and hoping to gain as much insight into the Cowboys before the two square off in the Division IV state semifinal game at Piqua Alexander Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“I like what the Association (Ohio High School Athletic Association) did splitting the Friday and Saturday games … but it is a little more of challenge from a coach’s standpoint because you are coming off a late night Saturday game and the turnaround time being in the classroom and studying film is a lot quicker.”
What Frye does know about the Cowboys is they are the No. 1 ranked team in Division IV that has not lost a regular season game since 2015.
What Frye also knows is that the Cowboys are averaging 42.6 points a game and giving up an average of seven points a game on defense. Wyoming has shut out four of its opponents this year, including last week in the regional final when they blanked London 28-0. In their three playoff wins, the Cowboys have outscored their opponents 96-24.
Frye also sees a dual threat quarterback, Evan Prater, that it is a difference maker. The junior signal caller has passed for 1,844 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions and ran for 1,395 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, including playoffs.
Senior Joey Edmonds is the Cowboys’ top receiver with 43 catches for 812 yards and one touchdown.
On defense, Frye must prepare for linebacker Hasan Black with 95 tackles and 8.5 sacks and defensive lineman Harrison Shepherd with 55 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
As a team, the Cowboys held teams to an average of 121.9 total yards and limited teams to an average of 36.3 yards on the ground.
Frye did face Wyoming back in 2003 in a first round playoff game that saw the Cowboys beat St. Marys 18-16. Frye remembers that a lateral play between then players and now coaches Bo Frye and Nick Yahl was called back that could have won the Riders the game.
“We spent a lot of time watching film,” Frye said. “They have a very good quarterback who was the Southwest district player of the year. They are an experienced team that played two to three rounds of the playoffs last year. It is a veteran team we are facing and a very skilled team.”
Frye said in addition to the film preparation the team has engaged in some light practices to gear up for the game.
“We try to mix the work with fun throughout the week and you have to fundamentally continue to improve,” Frye said. “I told the kids when you stop improving you are going to be in trouble. We have great respect for all our opponents.”
In order to keep the team focused and mentally sharp, Frye said it is imperative to keep the players excited about playing considering the fact that these athletes have been working since July.
“First of all I can’t see how you couldn’t be excited with an opportunity to go to Canton but it is a long season so we try to pace ourselves throughout the week,” Frye said. “We are only in full gear one time during the week and we really only have shoulder pads one other day.”
Frye added that the main focus is getting ready “above the eyebrows,” as the team watches a lot of film.
With Thanksgiving sandwiched in the week, it might pose a distraction for some teams but Frye said his team is a battled-tested mature squad that is embracing the opportunity.
Coming off last week’s impressive 38-7 win over Clear Fork, Frye understands his team is doing the right things at the right time and it showed in the victory.
“They were very physical and a skilled team and I thought our kids just continued to play with heart,” Frye said. “In the second half we just continued to do the little things that we needed to do and I thought maybe Clear Fork had not been in that situation before.”
Frye added that he thinks because of the the Riders’ depth upfront that they wore down the Colts in the final 24 minutes.
The keys to winning remain the same for Frye and Co. and that is to win the plus/minus turnover ratio and to find an advantage in the special teams area.
“We will have our work cut out but when you reach this point the challenge is going to be big,” Frye said.