Wapakoneta varsity coach Doug Frye has labeled his team’s first three games as the toughest he has ever dealt with in 16 seasons associated with the Western Buckeye League.
The Redskins’ first of those three games will be played Friday, against the Bellefontaine Chieftains, in Wapak’s lone non-league regular season game of 2013, before the team opens WBL play with Kenton and Elida.
Bellefontaine went 1-8 last season and lost the 2012 opener to Wapak, 49-13.
The Chieftains, however, have undergone a makeover, and Frye feels Bellefontaine is a worthy challenger.
Bellefontaine landed new varsity coach Toby Smith earlier this year.
Smith went 11-1 in his final season at West Liberty-Salem, led the program to seven playoff berths in his 14-year tenure and won three conference championships in the past four seasons.
WLS went 10-0 in the regular season four times under Smith.
“Toby Smith has done a great job in the short time he’s been there from West Liberty-Salem,” Frye said. “He’s a hometown guy from Bellefontaine. He’s come back home to get the program back on track.
“The scrimmages they picked up — in Winton Woods, Kenton and Pickerington Central — are just three phenomenal, loaded football teams year in and year out," he said. "Toby sent a message to his football team that they’re going to be competitive.”
What the Redskins will be competing against Friday is the increasingly popular spread offense, which is what Wapak faced throughout the preseason in scrimmages against Findlay, Tiffin Columbian and Minster.
The preseason reps against the spread offense will aid Wapak in these three formidable challenges to start the 2013, as Kenton and Elida also run the spread offense.
“They run the spread offense similar to Elida, where there’s a back in the backfield. They run a lot of quick hitches. No. 2 (wide receiver A.J. Gorham) is a phenomenal athlete.”
Bellefontaine, with Smith aboard, has injected instant credibility to the program. That said, Wapak cannot take them lightly.
“I’ve seen immense improvement from their football team,” Frye said. “They’re tough. They’re scrappy. They’ll really get after you. This is a team that played a lot of younger guys a year ago.
“They have a number of returning starters back,” he said. “They’ll present a huge challenge to us on that side of the ball.”
Frye is looking to take his relatively young squad to greater heights in 2013.
The Redskins have posted the most wins in a three-year stretch in school history under Frye since 2010, including a 7-3 record last season.
In Wapak’s sight are achievements like winning the WBL and qualifying for the playoffs. But, first, the team needs to show consistency in order to perform at a high level.
Consistency is required all season long, and that chore will begin Friday against Bellefontaine.
“The point of emphasis this week is consistency,” Frye said. “A week ago we had flashes of being very good and we had flashes of being just OK.
“We need a consistent effort all of the time.” he said. “We talked about a consistent level of practice and a consistent level of play on game day.”
One challenge Frye is experiencing with the relatively young Redskins squad is tendency to dwell on past performance.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys in a lot of places, more than I’ve had in past years,” Frye said. “We have to react to situations and not dwell on the previous play but move onto the next play.
“It’s always my philosophy with the kids not to look back and to continue to look forward,” he said.
If the Redskins are able to be consistent and persistent in Friday’s game, a win is likely in order.
Frye described how a win would propel them into the WBL season, which is nine games in length.
“Any time you open with a win, it sets a great tone for the season but even more so this year because we have two very tough WBL games right out of the gate,” Frye said. “It would certainly help us to get off to a good start. I’m sure Bellefontaine is thinking the same thing with a new coach coming in.
“It’ll be a good challenge for us,” he said. “It’s two very good football teams right off the bat.”
Frye said he believes two factors — special teams and turnover differential — are always crucial, especially in early season games like Friday.
“Those are two things we’re always talking about and coaching up during practice,” Frye said.
Wapakoneta will host Bellefontaine at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Harmon Field.
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