By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher was staring off into the distance, as if he could literally see himself stretching the red, black and white No. 13 jersey across his chest, lacing up his cleats, strapping up his chinstrap and preparing to walk into battle with his teammates.
“I guess I would have to say my best memory was getting on the bus, riding from the school down to the roundhouse and then walking from the roundhouse down to the stadium,” Burgbacher said. “It really is a great environment and a great atmosphere for a football game. My best memories are just being with my buddies. I still keep in contact with most of those guys.
“My memories of high school football are the ones I’m trying to create for our kids. I was able to play for a very good coach who taught me a lot through the game of football. That coach just happened to be my dad.”
Burgbacher was talking about his playing days as a quarterback and free safety for Tippecanoe, from where he graduated in 1995. Burgbacher — who would be elected homecoming king in the fall of 1994 — was a standout in multiple sports for the Red Devils, where he played football under his father, Charlie, the iconic Tippecanoe head coach who won 187 games in 26 seasons at Tippecanoe. Prior to Burgbacher, the Red Devils had won 237 games in 67 years. Matt Burgbacher spent five seasons as an assistant coach for his father, including three as offensive coordinator.
Needless to say, the ties between the Burgacher family and the Tippecanoe program run deep, all of which serves to add a little extra sizzle to Friday’s Troy-Tippecanoe game at Troy Memorial Stadium. Matt Burgbacher is now the head coach at Troy, while his father is the Trojans’ defensive coordinator.
The game itself is big enough on its own, as a pair of 4-1 teams with playoff aspirations will meet up in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division opener for both teams. Also, its the first time the two teams — which are just miles apart within Miami County — have played since 1985.
The two former Red Devils going against their former team only serves as added intrigue to a game many have had circled on their calendars since it was announced Tippecanoe would be leaving the Central Buckeye Conference for the GWOC several years ago.
“As much as I want to say this is just another game against just another opponent for us, I can’t,” Burgbacher said. “Obviously, it’s not. You’ve got two teams that haven’t played one another for 31 years playing with so much on the line — then there is the added aspect of us playing against the school that meant so much to us for so many years.
“It really is different. We’ve both still got a lot of ties to the school and to the community. We know so much about them and how they do things, while they know so much about us and how we do things. Obviously there’s a lot of familiarity with their kids — their seniors played for dad as sophomores.”
With so much at stake, Burgbacher hopes the game gets here soon.
“It’s going to be a fun game,” he said. “I think the two people who are going to be the most on edge during the week are my dad and my mom. Obviously my dad loves his time at Tippecanoe. And my mom is a true coach’s wife. She went through the thick and thin, the great moments and the low moments, with my dad when he was at time. Football wives ride the same emotions as coaches.
“I think there’s definitely going to be some nerves all week. Pre-game will be tough, as my dad will see a lot of people he hasn’t seen in a long time. But I think the best time of the whole week will be 7 p.m. when we finally kick off. Once the game starts, everything settles down and all the other stuff doesn’t matter anymore — we are going to be trying to beat them and they are going to be trying to beat us. When that happens, it’s all about the football game.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong