Roughriders Open Camp For 2019

St. Marys' Lukas Walter drops in coverage during a drill with the linebackers group on Thursday.
Sports Editor

With 49 days until they have their final meeting with Sidney, the St. Marys Roughriders football team opened camp for the 2019 season on Thursday — the first of 10 days the school is allotted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association before preseason practice begins Aug. 1.

“It’s nice to get some football time here,” Roughriders coach Doug Frye said. “The kids are excited about it. We spent the month of June in the weight room and conditioning and so what we are trying to do is get our helmets on learn some football.”

The Roughriders are fresh off a 12-2 season that saw them capture their first regional championship in 14 years and became the first team in program history since the 1989-1993 teams to win three straight Western Buckeye League titles. 

Now the challenge — as it has been for the last three years — is to maintain that success with the loss of 17 seniors, 13 of them starters from a year ago.

“We have a lot of newbies, guys coming up from the JV team, but the reassuring thing is that I have my staff all together and no pieces to replace,” Frye said. “They are a pleasure to work with, they are great people and they do a great job.

“We will find out if the program is developed or not and we have been testing that the last couple of years. The question this year is will our seniors continue to keep going on that level and have we come far enough in the program for guys to step in and fill those jobs.”

Frye referenced last year’s senior class that had a number of first-year starting seniors who left their mark on the team — such as Carter Ballweg rewriting the record books for most interceptions in a single-season in program history, three key linemen who helped paved the way for a downhill running attack and a couple of defensive linemen in Braden Wietholter and Jason Taylor who bursted on the scene and made that position a strong part of the defense.

“If you look at last year, the Ballwegs of the world and the Wickers from the year before, there has been a lot of kids who have come on in the program and played well as seniors and we rooting for the same thing this year,” Frye said.

The 2019 edition of the Roughriders — gearing up for a new era at the Roughrider Athletic Complex — is not short on letterwinners and experience with the likes of Ty Howell and Ty Schlosser leading a loaded backfield, while holdovers such as Riley Sweigart, Carson Fischbach and Lukas Walter look to build on what they started last season as this year’s new senior class.

“Sweigart would be a guy at center who played part time for us last year and he can be a key guy and Devin Shannon, a junior, who can be a key guy for us,” Frye said. “Ethan Freewalt is another guy who played part-time for us last year who we are looking to be more of a full-time guy.”

But right now, it about getting back to the basics for Frye with the 96 players he has in the program — a few more than he had last season.

“We are trying to do a good job of building depth for the season and we trying to do a good job of going back to square one,” Frye said. “I told the coaches this morning, don’t assume anyone knows anything today. Start over from square one like we are all rookie coaches and that has kind of been my adage every year in this job, which is to build relationships with these kids and then start over as a head coach.”

The Roughriders open the season against the Yellow Jackets at Sidney Memorial Stadium for the final time Aug. 30. Sidney has moved to a new league with a nine-game league schedule, forcing St. Marys to be dropped from its schedule beginning in 2020.