FREDERICKTOWN — When an opposing team sits down to create a game plan for facing the Fredericktown Freddies, Thomas Hinkle, C.J. Ruhl or Austin Hoeflich are probably at the top of their list for guys they have to stop. Three other Freddies are quickly emerging as the next level of challenges, however.
Juniors Tony Lybarger, Tyler Hathaway and Nathan Cubbage have stepped up their play this season on offense, defense and special teams, and each has played an integral role in the Freddies’ success. All three of them watched the 2007 Fredericktown squad make the deep playoff run, and they learned a lot from it. That’s what makes this season so special.
“This has been really great, really fun,” said Cubbage. “Everyone was saying we weren’t really a No. 1 seed, but we’ve been proving them wrong.”
“Everybody has been playing well, and we have been winning as a team,” said Hathaway. “We are all in this for the same thing. We want to win, and we’re not done yet. We want to keep playing.”
“It is a lot of fun to finally step up into a leadership role,” said Lybarger. “As freshmen, we just kind of sat back and watched how they did it. To actually be able to step up and do the roles yourself is great.”
Lybarger is the Freddies’ leading receiver, though any of the three are capable of making a big play at any given moment. They are also good friends, which makes things a little easier.
“When they are concentrating on some of our other great players, it gives me the opportunity to become a big player,” said Cubbage. “We’ve proven they can’t just concentrate on one or two players. ... It is awesome (to play alongside Lybarger and Hathaway). We’ve been playing since the fourth grade together; now, we are in high school, but we are still playing together just like we did in the fourth grade.”
“We are really close,” said Hathaway. “We’ve been playing together since we were little and we all know each other. That’s what helps.”
During last week’s game, the versatility of the receivers showed. The Wheelersburg defense clamped down on Lybarger and Hathaway, leaving Cubbage open. The result was a 79-yard touchdown pass, which put Fredericktown ahead, 15-14.
“On the pass play to Nathan (last week), they were daring us. They covered me and left Nathan wide open,” said Lybarger. “It is nice to have other high quality receivers like Nathan and Tyler to throw to, so we don’t become one dimensional. They have to guard all of us. They can’t key on one or two guys.”
“It helps our team out a lot (to have options). It really gives Thomas (Hinkle) a lot of options on where to throw,” Hathaway said. “It makes our offense a lot better.”
All three players are on the field almost every down, and each has his strengths. One common theme reverberates through all three, however.
“When you love the game, you want to play as much as you can,” said Lybarger. “You just have to work through it and do your best when you are called upon. ... As long as I am on the field and am able to make plays, it is all fun.”
“Offense and defense are both really fun,” Cubbage said. “Defense is a little better because it is a little more exciting. I like to hit people more than I like to get hit.”
It’s easy to overlook Fredericktown’s pass defense when most teams they play run the ball. These players, however, may be a secret weapon of sorts. When called upon, they make the big play.
“We always prepare for the pass, and know what to do,” Hathaway said. “We make great breaks on the ball, and really pick it up well.”
Tonight’s Division V Regional Final in Johnstown against the Ridgewood Generals will be another step in the Freddies’ evolution. They expect a tough challenge, and knows they must step up their game if they are going to win.
“I expect them to be really good,” said Cubbage. “It will be a harder challenge for us because it keeps getting harder. We are pretty evenly matched, so it should be a good game.”
“We’ve got to pick it up. Everybody we play is getting better and better, and each game is harder and harder. We’ve got to step it up if we want to keep playing,” said Hathaway.