By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — The Troy Christian football team may have earned its biggest win of the season before it had even stepped on the field in 2013.
The fact the Eagles were able to field a team at all — and bring a program back from the brink — was a victory in and of itself.
In 2011, Troy Christian — on the heels of of a pair of respectable 4-6 seasons — stumbled to a 1-9 finish. The Eagles weren’t just suffering losses on the field, however, but off the field as well. So many players left the program that Troy Christian didn’t even have enough bodies on the roster to field a team in 2012.
Troy Christian made its return to the football field last season, however, and — playing a reduced schedule with a team filled almost entirely with undersized underclassmen — finished off the season 4-4 as a club team under the watchful eye of new head coach Steve Nolan, who had spent the previous 28 years as the Troy football team’s head coach.
“It was a nightmare,” Nolan said of taking over a program that had taken a year off. “Basically, we had to start over with everything. We had to build from the ground up. Everything was new to these kids. But I had some good coaches on staff who were willing to put in the work, I had good kids who had great attitudes and I had a group of parents who were fully supportive and wanted to see the program succeed. That’s a pretty good start to any program.”
Troy Christian returned to the football field in grand fashion, knocking off St. John Central 22-9. The following week, Troy Christian suffered a heartbreaking 29-26 loss to Miami Valley Christian Academy. Troy Christian rebounded the following week, however, with a 40-7 win over the Landmark Eagles.
The Eagles would again trade wins the next two weeks, falling 37-14 to Grove City Christian, then coming back the next week to defeat Bethel Tate 27-7. Because Troy Christian was not officially an Ohio High School Athletic Association member football team last season, however, scheduling games was a problem and the Eagles faced a three-week layoff after the win over Bethel-Tate.
“Scheduling was a real problem for us last year,” Nolan said. “That three-week layoff right in the middle of the season killed us. But we are an OHSAA member this year and we are playing a full schedule, so we have that taken care of this season.”
Troy Christian’s rust following the layoff showed the next two weeks, as its lost to both Middletown Christian (18-0) and the Columbus Crusaders (41-21). The final week of the season, however, Troy Christian was able to finish off the season with a .500 record by topping Waynesfield-Goshen 35-0.
Certainly the future looks bright for the Eagles heading into this season. Troy Christian graduated just one senior, while everyone else returns — including junior running back Luke Dillahunt, who rushed for more than 1,1000 yards in just eight games last season, averaging more than 13 yards per carry.
“We’ve got pretty much everyone back,” Nolan said. “The kids have really bought into the program. All of the freshmen and sophomores we had to play last year are all a year older and have had a year in the weightroom. We feel like we’ve got the program, as a whole, headed in the right direction.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong