ST. MARYS – St. Marys fans have been rushing to get season tickets for the Roughriders’ new home.
While talking about the upcoming season, Doug Frye receives a call and hears that some fans are waiting in line for three hours to snatch a good seat in the newly built facility right next to high school.
Yes, one of the reasons for the major interest in St. Marys is to get a good seat, but it is also because expectations remain high for the Roughriders in 2019.
Co-champions of the Western Buckeye League, the Roughriders made it all the way to the state semifinal game. In his sixth season, Frye has a 44-15 overall mark and three consecutive WBL titles.
“Anytime you raise the expectations, you are always trying to match those, so I think we are focused on that opening game in Sidney,” Frye said.
The Roughriders return 10 starters from that team, but it is those who are not returning that will have Frye and his coaching staff working in the preseason to get the team ready.
St. Marys lost seven starters on both sides of the ball and on offense, the Roughriders will be looking for a new signal-caller. Gone to graduation is the versatile Braden Dunlap who was an ideal fit in the Roughrider offense and made clutch plays throughout St. Marys’ 12-2 season.
“I think that any time you have to replace your trigger man, the guy in charge, is your No. 1 concern,” Frye said. “We have a new center too. That is right in the heart of the offense so those are the factors that are main concern.”
Junior Dylan Trogdlon, who played running back last year, and senior Kurt Bubp, who was the backup quarterback and who Frye categorized as the heir apparent are the frontrunners, are back. Frye added that a couple of sophomores, Kyle Kogge and Gavin Reineke, are also getting a look.
Some might have the misconception that being the Rider quarterback is all about handing the ball in the vaunted Rider wing-T offense and his role limited, but Frye said it is the opposite.
“First of all if you look at the spread offense, the quarterback is the focal point but in this offense, he is much more important than people give that person credit because the little, intricate things that go into this offense are so important to make it go,” Frye said. “If that quarterback is also athletic and an X-factor, that is added into the Wing-T offense that wouldn’t normally be there.”
Also gone to graduation is Sean Perry, the all-purpose back who amassed more than 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns on offense during the regular season. Defensively Perry was the WBL defensive player of the year and the Division IV Northwest Ohio first-team selection.
Senior Ty Howard, a two-year starter, and Ty Schlosser, the fullback both are back in the Riders’ backfield and should fill the hole left by Perry. Senior Carson Fishbach and fullback Hunter Fraley will get carries as well.
Three starters are returning on the offensive line with junior Bryan Ward at left tackle and Jase Norton who played tight end last season but has bulked up and will be moved to the tackle position. Senior Logan Allen returns to his guard spot.
Frye added that there are five players getting a look at tight end with Blake Kanorr, the All-Northwest District defensive player, looking to assume that starting position with Riley Sweigart at the center spot. The battle for the other guard position is still ongoing in the preseason.
Like the offense, Frye finds himself filling key holes on the defense.
One area that should look solid is the defensive line anchored by Kanorr, the WBL defensive lineman of the year and All-Northwest District defensive lineman of the year. He will be joined by returner Trey Fisher.
Senior Lukas Walter and Schlosser return as linebackers and in the secondary Howell and Fishbach are back.
“I think replacing two defensive lineman and two secondary guys are important factors right there so it will be guys growing up and filling those roles,” Frye said.
Frye said he knows the players returning from last year understand what it takes to win a league title and make a deep playoff run.
“Winning is always good, and it gets kids excited to match that, but it is a completely different team every year. So I’m not saying that is bad, and we prefer to do that than the other, but our kids know and our coaches know it is a year with new people,” Frye said. “Last year what happened was a lot of kids hadn’t seen significant roles stepped to the table and grew up and became pretty good football players.”
Frye adds that you hope for this but don’t always see it, and he is hoping junior and senior players who have been waiting for their chance to shine will do that on Friday nights.
Frye adds that the senior leadership will be a major factor in the development of the team.
The Roughriders will find out where they are early in the season. St. Marys’ first three games are on the road, including the opener against Sidney followed by a big test against Wapakoneta in week two followed by a trip to Ottawa-Glandorf.
“This is the most challenging schedule that we have had in my six years here,” Frye said. “It is a tough way to begin the year on the road, and our last scrimmage is on the road so we are going to be on the road for a solid month.”
The Riders will christen the new stadium against Van Wert in week four, and this is the first time St. Marys have played home games on turf. However, Frye said this should not be a factor because the majority of schools they play on the road have turf, and even though the facilities were not ready until this year, the Roughriders have practiced on the surface the last five years.
“We spend over half of our week there, but it will be exciting to have a new stadium, but it is not like a place we are walking into a new place,” Frye said. “We have a comfort level with the facilities.”