Things are looking up for the Fredericktown football program. After a
long playoff drought that left the team without a postseason berth
since 1989, the Freddies have put together two postseason appearances
in a row and made a run last season to the Region 19 finals. Four starters return on each side of ball.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB/DB Thomas Hinkle (6-4, 205, jr.), TB/LB Curtis Ruhl (5-11, 175, jr.), FB/DE Brennan Goeppinger (5-11, 190, sr.), WR/DB Nick Testa (5-10, 160, sr.), OL Kasey Berry (6-2, 210, sr.)
2007 Record: 10-3, Regional finalist
Things are looking up for the Fredericktown football program. After a long playoff drought that left the team without a postseason berth since 1989, the Freddies have put together two postseason appearances in a row and made a run last season to the Region 19 finals.
“We entered last season with high expectations,” head coach Luke Beal said. “We had a real good senior group, and they had played a lot in their four years. Our goal every year is to try to win the league, and that was probably the only real disappointment that we had last year is we ended up coming in second in our conference, but we were able to make up for that by getting into the playoffs.
“Once we got into the playoffs, we had a nice run, so we were able to win a couple games. It was great for our program. We were able to generate a lot of excitement, and we’ve been able to bring a lot of that momentum into the offseason with our younger kids. It was just a great experience for both our seniors to send them out and for our younger kids who are coming back.”
Last year’s 10-3 mark was the best showing for Fredericktown since a 12-1 campaign in 1989. The success has created a new outlook in a program that had grown to expect losing seasons.
“I think the biggest thing is confidence,” Beal said. “Last year, in 2006, we were just kind of happy to be in the playoffs. We got beat pretty handily by a good West Jefferson team. But this year, we realized that once we got in, even though we were a seventh seed, we beat the second seed and the third seed, we realized that we deserved to be there. Once you get into the playoffs, you can win games. You just have to go out and play. That was a real big boost for us because it was no longer a situation of just being happy to be there but one of ‘Let’s get into the playoffs and do some damage.’ The younger kids saw the excitement once we started winning games in the playoffs, and that’s something they want to continue.
“The conversations that our players have have changed in the last three or four years. Four years ago, we would have been happy with just a winning season, but now, the kids are talking about not just getting into the playoffs, but winning games in the playoffs. I guess the biggest thing is that our expectations have changed, and it’s really kind of raised the bar in terms of what our players expect, which makes them work that much harder in the offseason.”
Four starters return on both sides of the ball for this year’s Fredericktown team. It will be up to those starters and the younger core of players to keep the success going.
“We’ll be young, but we did have a lot of younger kids that they might not have been starters last year but did see a lot of action,” Beal said. “Our numbers are really good right now, and I think the success we’ve had the past two years have really helped that. They’ve really bought into the type of things that we’re doing. They worked very hard this winter and spring in the weight room in our offseason conditioning. The kids are excited. Our JV team had a winning record and our freshmen were undefeated in our conference. We’re going to be young, but we feel like we’ve got a lot of good young talent, so we’re excited about that.”
Beal feels that the team’s biggest question mark could be in the trenches.
“Offensively, the biggest area that we have question marks is on the offensive line,” he said. “We only have one returner back on the offensive line, so we’re going to have to have some young kids that really step up and do well right off the bat. They’re going to have to grow up in a hurry. We have one starter returning and then we have just really one other athlete that’s going to be a junior that saw some time, so offensively that’s the biggest question mark. We lost some good skilled kids on the offensive side of the ball, but we’ve got a quarterback who’s coming up that played a lot of wide receiver for us and is a real good athlete. Our fullback is back and our wingback is back, so we’ve got a little bit more experience on the skilled side.
“Defensively, we graduated our middle linebacker, who was pretty good. Both of our defensive ends graduated, so those are going to be question marks. Probably the most experience we have defensively is in the secondary and also the defensive line. We had two starters that graduated, but we had a lot of young kids that got a lot of experience on the defensive line.”
Fredericktown also must deal with the graduation of All-Ohio quarterback Merritt Zollars, but Beal feels as if junior Thomas Hinkle, who played out of position last year, has the ability to pick up right where Zollars left off.
“He’s always been a quarterback, but this year we had a first-team All-Ohio quarterback,” Beal said. “He’s a great athlete. We had to play him somewhere on offense last year, so he got a lot of experience as a wide receiver, and he also started for us in the secondary. He’s played a lot; he just has not been our starting quarterback. We graduated a great quarterback, but we’re hoping to just continue on with this kid. He certainly has the potential to be a great quarterback.”
The Freddies must navigate through a schedule that includes formidable opponents such as Sparta Highland and Johnstown-Monroe.
“Our league is always very tough,” Beal said. “In this part of the state, our league is really tough top to bottom. Our opening game is Highland, and they’re coming off two playoff seasons back-to-back. That first game is always a challenge, and they’ve beaten us the last two years. We want to start the season off on the right foot and try and get a win there, but it’s always a challenge. Then in our league, it’s always very physical. Week in and week out, you’ve got to be ready to play, so for us, we’ve just got to make sure that our young kids grow up and mature quickly, and we’ve got to be ready to battle each and every week. It’s hard to say at this time. There’s just so much parity in our league that it’s hard to predict who’s going to be on top when the dust clears, but we’re hoping that we can go out and compete with the best teams in our conference.”
8/22 @ HIGHLAND (SPARTA)
8/29 @ CRESTLINE
9/5 COLONEL CRAWFORD (NORTH ROBINSON)
9/12 @ NORTHRIDGE (JOHNSTOWN)
9/19 @ DANVILLE
9/26 JOHNSTOWN-MONROE (JOHNSTOWN)
10/3 EAST KNOX (HOWARD)
10/10 @ UTICA