That came on the heels of a 2020 season that was interrupted everywhere by the COVID-19 pandemic but more abbreviated at some schools than others.
Trotwood was among the former group as the district suspended fall sports at the start of August before reinstating them in early September.
The Rams were limited to three regular season games but won them all. They topped Carroll 28-7 in the first round of the playoffs, but their bid to defend their state championship came to an end a week later when they lost to Alter 42-0 in a game delayed by storms.
Beyond missing valuable practice time over the past two years, Graham and his staff have also dealt with the continuing effects of the tornado that hit the area in May 2019.
“It’s been a transition over the years,” said Graham, who is 76-24 as head coach at TMHS. “I don’t want to use any excuses, but when the tornado happened, we lost a lot of guys. A lot of guys disappeared, and that hurt certain classes.
“When we won state in 2019, we had maybe 30 guys on the roster, but that senior class had had older role models that could show them the way when they were freshmen. These guys didn’t have that.”
Trotwood has been a frequent stop for college recruiters over the past decade-plus, but the Rams have not produced as many major prospects over the past couple of years.
That appears ready to change as Graham’s roster has numerous players who have been making the rounds to college camps this summer and reporting interest from Division I programs.
Defensive back Mike Smith and quarterback Timothy Carpenter headline a talented group from the class of 2024.
Duke, Massachusetts, Akron, Bowling Green and Miami University have offered Smith while Carpenter’s offers include UMass, Eastern Kentucky, Akron, Central Michigan, Toledo and Miami U.
Sophomore-to-be Jahmale Clark has an offer from Eastern Kentucky while incoming freshman Jamarcus Whyce already has scholarship offers from Toledo and Massachusetts despite not playing a high school game yet.
Graham is happy to have a large contingent of talent to work with, but he knows developing his the roster will be a challenge.
“The thing is when you have a young team and you don’t have older guys to shoulder some of that weight it’s kind of hard when we have situations where we had no summer camp for the last two years,” Graham said. “They haven’t had this (seven on seven) for the last two years, so it’s hard trying to find leaders out of that group.
“It’s gonna be difficult, but I think we’ll find them by the time the season starts.”