For some schools losing seasons come around once every four or five years, but in the case of the Fredericktown Freddies, they suffered through 15-straight losing seasons. Now things are decidedly different.
For some schools losing seasons come around once every four or five years, but in the case of the Fredericktown Freddies, they suffered through 15-straight losing seasons.
From (1990-1999) the Freddies finished no better than .500 and prior to the 2000 campaign hired Bellville Clear Fork and 1994 Muskingum graduate, Luke Beal. Immediately everything turned around and the town’s people were giving Beal the key to the city. Well, not exactly. Actually, not anything close.
Beal’s first five seasons the Freddies experienced five more losing seasons and went a combined 13-37. Beal’s teams won four games in 2001, three in ‘02, two in ’03 and just one in ’04. In fact, in ’04 Fredericktown finished 30th (last) in Division V, Region 19 computer points. Needless to say, the Freddies reached rock bottom.
In 2005, Beal and his troops put the losing in the rear view mirror and have never looked back. The ’05 season Fredericktown won six games, which equaled the total of the three seasons prior. The Freddies finished 11th in the region, but were far from finished.
The following year, the Knox County School tallied seven wins and made the postseason. Quite an accomplishment all things considered.
All of the hard work, sweat poured and hours spent in the weight room paid off in 2007 when the Freddies finished the regular season 8-2 and qualified again for Week 11. One extra week wasn’t enough this time, though.
Fredericktown upset undefeated and No. 2 seed Buckeye Trail in Lore City then survived an overtime thriller to beat a powerful Wheelersburg team in the second round. The season came to an end at the hands of Columbus Bishop Ready in the regional final, but the Freddies 10-3 mark and 2-1 playoff record was quite an accomplishment.
The graduation of many key seniors left most people outside of the Fredericktown circle thinking it would be back to its losing ways. Think again. The Freddies, playing with a lot of young and inexperienced kids, rolled off another (8-2) regular season in ‘08 barely missing the playoffs.
Now it’s 2009 and Fredericktown is 7-0 and ranked No. 4 in the D-V JJHuddle Power Poll. This weekend the Freddies welcome a dangerous Utica team (5-2) to town.
How does a school endure 15-straight losing seasons and win just 13 games in the new coach’s first five years then explode for 38 victories in next four-plus campaigns?
“The toughest thing to change was the losing habits,” Beal said. “We had decent talent, but instead of going into games finding a way to win we would find a way to lose. The biggest thing we wanted to express was we as a coaching staff were in for the long haul. Stability as a staff has been huge. Stability usually equals success. We began expecting success through a tremendous work ethic. We continued to harp it takes hard work to be successful. Overall, it has been a total community effort from parents, fans, youth leagues, coaches and players.”
The young and inexperienced squad a year ago returned 16 starters this season – and it shows. The Freddies are off to a torrid start and are averaging a blistering 50.4 points per game. They’re giving up just 11.7 points.
One may argue Fredericktown has beaten just one team with a winning record (Sparta Highland), while the other six teams have a dismal combine dmark of 11-31. Perhaps this week’s game against high powered Utica, though, will change some people’s minds. Utica is 5-2 with its losses having come to Granville and Heath, which are a combined 12-2. The game will likely decide the Mid-Buckeye Conference title as both teams are undefeated in league play.
“This is a very good football team we are playing this week, and by far our biggest challenge to date,” Beal said. “They have a high powered offense with a very talented quarterback and some quality receivers. Their defense was very young to start the year, but they appear to be getting better each week.”
When watching Fredericktown be prepared for an offensive explosion. What is it that makes this offense so powerful?
“I think the key offensively for us has been balance,” Beal said. “Our quarterback (Thomas Hinkle) has done a very good job of spreading the ball around to a number of different players. We have a number of athletes that when they get the ball in space can do damage. Once we spread the team out a little bit the run opens up for us.
Hinkle, a 6-3, 210 pound senior quarterback, has been better than good. The signal caller has thrown for 1,274 yards including 16 TDs versus just eight interceptions. On the ground, Hinkle has churned out 344 yards and 10 TDs on 76 carries.
Hinkle’s top targets are junior Tony Lybarger (5-10/165), senior C.J. Ruhl (5-11/175), and junior Tyler Hathaway (5-8/145).
Lybarger leads the team with 26 receptions for 505 yards and seven TDs. Ruhl follows with 16 catches for 319 yards and five TDs.
Ruhl has played no offense the last three weeks due to an injury, and his defensive time has been limited as well. The senior RB/LB has three rushing TDs to go with his five receiving.
If the passing game sets up the run, it has done wonders for freshman tailback Matt Smith. The youngster rushed for 175 yards on 17 carries and scored four TDs in last week’s 47-0 win over East Knox. He also added a two-point conversion run.
The 5-foot-9 and 195-pound Smith leads the team with 353 yards on the ground and six TDs on 45 carries.
Junior Austin Hoeflich has rushed for 334 yards and six TDs.
With any high powered offense, hidden away from the Saturday morning headlines are the boys up front paving the way.
The Freddies offensive line consists of junior offensive tackles Logan Awwiller (6-1/235) and Nick Stacey (6-2/240), senior guards Jordon Levering (5-10/205) and Seth Peppers (6-0/190) and senior center Cody Mann (6-3/210).
“Most of our offensive line played last year, and they are getting better every week,” Beal said. “They are certainly doing their job, and we hope they just continue to improve.”
Stacey played a lot on the defensive line on the regional finalist team as a frosh as did Hinkle and Ruhl who started both ways as sophomores. Hinkle played receiver on offense.
Though, the offense is explosive, Beal knows tough games are won on defense.
The 5-3 defensive unit is led by Hoeflich at his middle linebacker spot. The junior has accumulated 123 tackles thus far.
“Austin is having a great year, and he is a real leader on the defensive side of the ball,” Beal said.
Hoeflich is getting support from Stacey (39 tackles) on the defensive line. In the secondary Hinkle has 43 tackles, while Hathaway has 38 tackles and three interceptions.