Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual degrees in music from Ohio State University.

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The second-year coach of the Troy Trojans is “armed’ and ready for a stronger, more successful reprise of last season, confident in a better product…if the bodies hold out!

Troy coach Scot Brewer considered his words, his options, carefully last week as he answered questions about the 2013 Trojans.

You do that on the heels of a 4-6 season.  You look for anwers of any kind when your mentor and predecessor (Steve Nolan) wins 200 games and averages 10 per season for the bulk of his 25 five years previous.

You do that when winning is a habit, a tradition…and you’re part of that tradition.  Brewer and every one of his assistants this year is a Troy product.  Every one of them played for Troy.  The latest…Ben Merkert, who joins the staff for 2013 as a secondary coach.

You do that when the questions are this direct and to the point.

Can the Trojans bounce back from the disappointment of 4-6?

Can the Trojans move the ball more successfully on offense, something they simply couldn’t do in 2012?

Can they block the line of scrimmage better than they did last year?

Have they grown up, matured, and developed that attitude of confidence and execution so lacking in games with Miamisburg, Butler, and Piqua…last year?  Games where you could cut the offensive frustration with a knife, like a funk that hung over the field.  Missed assignments, missed opportunities, turnovers, etc.

“I hope so,” Brewer said firmly.  “Frankly, if I could have four calls back we go 8-2, but I wouldn’t have done anything different.”

The predictable…and the unpredictable.  Occasionally, the inexplicable.  Five fumbles in one game.

True to tradition, Brewer’s defense played its heart out.

Contrary to tradition, the offense too often couldn’t find a pulse. Young and untested, and occasionally battered, the Trojans set a modern record for futility in breaking the plane of the goal line.  Starting quarterback Mat Barr was sidelined midseason with an injury, leaving Brewer and staff to improvise…to find options where there were no viable options due to diminished numbers and inexperience.  Frustrating!

But a year in the life of an adolescent athlete can work wonders.  They get bigger, stronger, and wiser for the fact of painful lessons absorbed.  When your pride gets hurt you revert to tradition, to every possible resource for improvement.  You look to the past, you rally, consort to make sure that the baby’s worth keeping while you throw out the bathwater.

Past standout and NFL lineman Kris Dielman came to town and huddled with Brewer. The consensus?  Don’t try to fix what’s not broke.  Just do it better.

“I grew up with Kris,” smiles Brewer.  “We had fist fights with each other as kids, his and Ryan’s class and my class, we all grew up together.  We know each other, so there’s a lot of honesty between us.  He supports us 110%.  He’s on board with what we’re doing offensively..  He likes the direction, power football.  Get after it for four quarters.  We want to get back to that place where we play anybody, any time.  Division I or Division II, it doesn’t make a difference.  There was a time….”  he says, resolutely.  “We want to get back there.”

There is a necessary “buy-in” when you’re coming back from 4-6, for coaches and kids alike.  They have to believe in something better, in each other…in better times. Seniors like Barr and offensive lineman Alex Dalton (6’4″, 265 pounds), who’s committed already to play for the University of Oklahoma, are back with a purpose and focus to right the wrongs of a season lost.  There is a tradition, you see, and those five consecutive wins over Piqua, a streak broken in last year’s 14-0 loss to the Indians.

Scot Brewer’s buy-in starts with quarterback Mat Barr.

On quarterback Mat Barr: “His arm is as good as anyone’s in the area. And, we have kids who can catch the ball. We just need to have everyone on the same page.”  –  Scot Brewer

“His arm is as good as anyone’s in the area,”  says Brewer.  “He’s rolling to his left in practice the other day and throws the ball 50 yards, a real laser.  And, he’s commanding the huddle and the offense.  He’s telling those guys when they do something wrong.  If someone runs the dig route incorrectly he’s on it, showing them the right way.  Last year Mat was just trying to figure out his own position.  We were, and he was.  Now I’m really excited about him.

“The other thing is we have kids that can catch the ball.  We don’t have speed at the receiver position that we’ve had in the past, but we have long kids who can catch the ball…kids who are 6’1″ and taller who have wingspan.  It’s the new era of Troy receivers, a whole new corps, we just have to get them all on the same page. We do that and we’ll be in great shape.”

The staple for generations of Troy football has been their running backs, which production and efficiency-wise, took a downturn last season.

“Miles (Hibbler) looks good running the ball…just as fast and explosive as ever,”  adds Brewer.  “But now he’s getting a little wiggle and some more confidence.  He’s the kind of guy that puts his foot in the ground and just goes.  Plus there’s a sophomore, Elijah Pearson, that I’m anxious to see.”

As to that question about blocking people…the offensive line.  Words measured, OK, but Brewer believes in what he’s seen during the off-season and through the first days of camp.

“Well, we’re bigger and stronger,”  he contends.  “Dalton, Overla, Kostecka, Eidemiller…those guys are back and we have competition.  Four of the five line positions are solidified, and that’s so different from last year.  Offensively we’ve got an identity now.  It just took us a year to know what to do with what we had.  Now we know and the kids have bought in to that…simple stuff.  We’re going to be better.

“We’re more physical than we were, on both sides of the ball, because a lot of guys are going to be playing both ways.  We have no choice.  Last year we gave up 200 yards after contact (YAC yards) in the CJ game alone.  The defense was in position to make plays.  They were hitting people.  But we had 5’6″ kids out there that weighed 140 pounds.  Now you’re going to see a defensive front that may average 260-270, that can run.  Then our linebackers behind them are bigger and more physical.  We got after people last year, we were just undersized.  That’s no excuse, but we’re going to go back to our philosophy and that’s to pound people on offense and defense.  We’re going to be physical, and we might win some ugly.”

They won’t dress as many as they once did.  Culture has something to do with that.  And truthfully, Scot Brewer will tell you he’d rather have fewer kids, but kids that would fight for no reason at all…kids that just want to win.  Another area coach used to say, “I’d rather have 40 that can play, than 40 more that are in the way.”  That’s all good…but you gotta’ stay healthy.

He’ll tell you about those four plays, against CJ, Miamisburg, Butler, and Springfield.  Four plays that he believes turned the tide of the Trojans’ season, from 8-2 to 4-6.

He’ll tell you that he’s excited about solid classes in the seventh and eighth grades, the future of Troy football.

And last, he’ll tell you that the 2013 Troy Trojans are older, better, and capable of winning the GWOC North and making the playoffs.  He likes his kids, regardless of size.  The buy-in…kids to coach and coach to kids. That business about the size of the fight in the dog, not the size of the dog.

That, too, was Scot Brewer once upon a time.  He remembers.  He believes.  He’s bought in!

Note: Follow the Trojans’ via internet this year on Press Pros streaming audio with Joe Neves, at home and on the road, presented by the Unity National Bank.  And, listen live while you watch the game on our FM signal, 107.3.  The best call of the best games…on Press Pros Magazine.com!

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