ENGLEWOOD — There were no superstars, only victories.
There were no egos, only trophies.
There was no drama, only magic.
And all of that may have made the stinging finality of it all so hard to swallow.
“If my son can grow up to be like these boys, I’m going to be a proud dad,” Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher said, choking back tears following his team’s heartbreaking 28-21 loss to Miamisburg Friday in the Division II regional semifinals at Northmont Good Samaritan Stadium.
It was a season no Troy football fan will soon forget, as the Trojans finished with a 10-2 record — becoming just the ninth team in school history to reach double-digit wins in a season — won the program’s first conference title in 16 years and defeated rival Piqua for the first time in five years, evening the all-time series between the two schools at 63-63-6.
As incredible as all of those accomplishments were, however, what made this year’s Troy team so endearing was not so much what they accomplished, but how they accomplished it.
This was not a team that came into the season with a lengthy list of previous accomplishments or expectations — or, by most measure, any accomplishments at all. Aside from a stunning upset of state-ranked Trotwood-Madison last year, this team had perhaps the least impressive resume in the area. They were 2-8 last season — dead last in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division — and a combined 10-30 in the previous four years combined.
This was a team that exceeded nearly every realistic expectation most everyone had for it. This was supposed to be phase two of the rebuilding process — going from a 2-8 record last year to a respectable (most figured somewhere around a .500 record) record this year.
While that may have been good enough for everyone else, however, it was not good enough for the Trojans themselves. They wanted to skip the rebuilding phrase and move directly into a penthouse suite … and they did just that. That weren’t satisfied with what others expected of them — they demanded better of themselves.
And they got it.
“To me, it all goes back to that day in camp when we were going to have what was supposed to be a one-sided conversation,” Burgbacher said. “We were supposed to tell them what we expected of them as Troy football players. But we had a group of seniors who took control of that meeting. They said they were tired of this. They said they wanted to make a difference. But it’s like we always tell them … saying something and doing something are two different things.”
And the Trojans did do it, each and every week on the field. They changed the culture of a team and a town. They filled the stands at Troy Memorial Stadium. They made it cool to be a Troy football fan again. They made the people in a football-crazed town remember why they fell in love with high school football to begin with.
Again, though, part of what made this group so lovable was they accomplished all they did largely with a band of underdogs and overachievers. Their story was impossible not to love.
Do a quick scan of any major college recruiting service. On the seemingly endless lists of future Division I college football players, none of the names currently on the Troy roster can be found. Certainly that may change based on the breakout seasons some of the Trojans had this year — but for now, we have to understand Troy accomplished all it did this season without the benefit of sure-fire college superstars.
There likely were no future Heisman Trophy candidates or NFL draft picks on this roster. There were no comparisons to legends from Troy’s past — there were no Bob Fergusons, Tommy Vaughns, Tommy Myers, Gordon Bells, Ryan Brewers or Kris Dielmans.
This was a team filled with solid, hard-w0rking high school football players who proved that, under the right circumstances, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. This was a squad that regularly went up against — and defeated — teams with far more star power. This was the embodiment of a team.
And for that, it should forever hold a special place in the hearts of Troy football fans.
It certainly does in Burgbacher’s.
“I don’t have the words to describe what these guys mean to me,” he said. “These guys mean the world to me. These seniors did everything we asked of them and it hurts to know this is the last time we’ll all be together. I’m proud as heck of this team.”
As should be everyone who watched them the past 12 weeks.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong