On more than one occasion and by more than one pundit, the Western Buckeye League was described as a ‚Äúgauntlet‚ÄĚ in 2011.
Four WBL teams ‚ÄĒ Wapakoneta, Elida, Ottawa-Glandorf and Kenton ‚ÄĒ qualified for the playoffs, and three others ‚ÄĒ Bath, Shawnee and Defiance were still mathematically alive going into Week 10.
But now the second season begins.
Wapak will face the Franklin Wildcats in a Division II regional quarterfinal at 7:30 Friday night at Franklin High School.
And Redskins varsity football coach Doug Frye is hoping the rough-and-tumble league schedule has prepared the Redskins for the playoffs.
‚ÄúYou see nine straight teams of a variety of spreads to runs, a variety of size and speed,‚ÄĚ Frye said. ‚ÄúYou do see a lot of good football teams throughout the year.
‚ÄúNow it‚Äôs getting out of that comfort level, getting on a bus and traveling down and playing a championship team and seeing if we can take it to a championship level.‚ÄĚ
Franklin and Wapakoneta sport identical 9-1 records. The Wildcats‚Äô lone loss was a 21-0 shutout at the hands of Bellbrook in midseason. Franklin closed out the season with five straight wins, three of them by three points or less.
Frye said the Wildcats are similar to two opponents the Redskins defeated during the regular season ‚ÄĒ Ottawa-Glandorf and Shawnee.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre fairly big in the trenches,‚ÄĚ Frye said. ‚ÄúThey have some skilled athletic kids. They like to mix the run with the pass almost equally.
‚ÄúDefensively they compare more to Shawnee, a smaller, quicker defensive football team,‚ÄĚ he said.
Junior running back Chris Hymer (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) is Franklin‚Äôs chief offensive weapon. Hymer carried the ball 147 times this season for 870 yards (5.9 per carry) and 14 touchdowns.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs an outstanding running back with speed and quickness,‚ÄĚ Frye said. ‚ÄúHe reminds me of O-G‚Äôs Tristan Parker, maybe not quite as big but a tad quicker.‚ÄĚ
At 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, senior wide receiver Everett Williams makes a nice-sized target for senior quarterback Kevin Stewart (6-foot-3, 170).
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs their best receiver by far,‚ÄĚ Frye said. ‚ÄúAnd their quarterback does a nice job of throwing the ball.
‚ÄúAs far as touches go, Hymer and Williams are going to see the ball 70-75 percent of the time.‚ÄĚ
Frye said one of the keys will be whether the Redskins can return to the physical style of football they played through the first seven weeks of the season.
‚ÄúWe have to be physical,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI felt that slipped a little bit the last couple weeks of the regular season. So we‚Äôve got to regain that physical presence about us. We need to do the little things well on both sides of the ball, as far as execution goes.
‚ÄúIn our style of football, it‚Äôs not what we do but how we do it. We‚Äôve got the ‚Äėhow‚Äô up to the winning level. Now we need to get the ‚Äėhow‚Äô up to the championship level.‚ÄĚ
Frye said it‚Äôs all a part of the process of building a contender.
‚ÄúObviously the first challenge we had to get used to is winning,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe hadn‚Äôt done much of that for awhile. So winning was the first step. The second step was competing for championships. The third step is winning championships and playoff games.
‚ÄúSo we‚Äôre on Step 3. We fell just short of winning a [WBL] championship, so hopefully we can win in the playoffs.‚ÄĚ
Frye brings a wealth of playoff experience and says it is a different style of preparation.
‚ÄúThe good thing is, I assured [the players], and I certainly didn‚Äôt wear this on my shoulder, but I assured them that I‚Äôve been through this a number of times,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not a rookie as far as preparing for this. I‚Äôve said here‚Äôs what‚Äôs going to happen and I‚Äôve tried to prep them on how the week will progress and how urgent it is to play every play with full effort.
‚ÄúBecause you‚Äôre only playing championship teams now. You can‚Äôt take plays off. That‚Äôs something I‚Äôve worked hard at and struggled with, is convincing our kids you need to play hard every play with full-out effort. That‚Äôs something that we‚Äôre working hard to get across to our kids.‚ÄĚ