Troy football coach optimistic about fate of 2020 season

The Troy defense takes down Kevin Johnson (3) and Andrew Pollender (44) of Xenia. Xenia defeated visiting Troy 24-22 in a Week 9 high school football game on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
The Troy defense takes down Kevin Johnson (3) and Andrew Pollender (44) of Xenia. Xenia defeated visiting Troy 24-22 in a Week 9 high school football game on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Trojans stayed motivated in spring with Zoom meetings

Troy High School football coach Dan Gress saw the joy in his players’ faces when they showed up for the first workouts June 1. They hit the ground running right away after months at home.

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About a month into training, as schools around Ohio have progressed through phase one of the return-to-play plan into phase two, Gress remains confident there will be a football season despite the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic. He also admits any coach would be lying if he said he didn’t have some doubts in the back of his head.

"I'm very optimistic," said Gress, who's entering his second season. "Us coaches, the players are treating every day, every practice, every workout like we're having football come August. That's the only thing you can do."

Troy started its workouts outside because it didn’t have room in the weight room to run the whole team through workouts. With groups limited to 10, the team would have been there all day, cycling through different players, Gress said.

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Instead, the Trojans did body-weight workouts and conditioning and agility drills outside and also worked on learning the playbook.

When the school was allowed to move to phase two of the plan, the size of player groups increased from 10 to 20. There’s now a circuit in which the groups move from the weight room to a small gym outside and then to their position coach for football skills training.

Just seeing the players after months of being prohibited from doing so by the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s no-contact rule provided a morale boost for the coaches. Gress said the team held virtual Zoom meetings Monday through Thursday throughout the spring.

“They were more motivational meetings,” he said. “The biggest reason was giving the boys a reason to get out of bed.”

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Troy alums like Jared Bair, who just graduated from the Air Force Academy, spoke to the players on the Zoom video app.

“We tried to switch it up as much as possible to keep the boys interested and motivated,” Gress said, “so they would see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The players received workout plans tailored for players who had a full gym in their house and for players who had nothing. Still, they all looked forward to the day they would get to train together.

“At the end of the day, we had no doubt, even if a kid was busting their butt, which almost all of ours were, there’s nothing like coming back and being put through a workout by a coach,” Gress said.

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Although they have returned to workouts and are allowed to conduct intrasquad scrimmages and 7-on-7 drills, Gress said the focus in June was on getting the players in shape. They’re weighing the risks and rewards of proceeding with a planned 7-on-7 scrimmage with Miamisburg, assuming the OHSAA gives the go-ahead for teams to play each other this summer.

Troy is scheduled to open the 2020 season Aug. 28 at home against Chaminade Julienne. That’s a matchup of two 2019 playoff teams. Each finished 8-3 last season.

“On the offensive side, we have the majority of our starting line returning, all but one,” Gress said. “We’ll obviously lean on them just like we did last year and not out-think ourselves, but the offense will look a little different. We lost our starting quarterback and starting running back, who accounted for the majority of our yards. But we’re excited because we have guys who can step into those roles and also some guys on the edge at the wide receiver position who have a great chance to make an impact and have a breakout year.”