CENTERBURG — Prior to the season, Centerburg football coach Jim Stoyle was hoping his Trojans would learn how to win.
So far, so good.
The Trojans are 3-0 and ranked 20th in the state in Division V.
Now comes the hard part — sustaining that success.
The Trojans face a major challenge Friday when the unbeaten Johnstown Johnnies come to town for the opening game of the Mid-Buckeye Conference season.
“Our seniors have not had a lot of success,” said Stoyle. “One thing about this senior class, we felt good about our chances of being competitive. We’re in the process of learning how to win. We focus on it every week, not only preparing physically, but mentally. It’s a continual process and our confidence level has grown. But, this week is a huge challenge.”
The Trojans have won their three games using both a solid defensive effort and an explosive offense. But, this Friday, they will face their toughest challenge with a Johnstown team that steamrolled its way through the non-conference portion of its schedule.
The Johnnies (3-0) have followed the lead of senior running back Ross Franklin. One of the MBC’s top backs a year ago, Franklin has taken his play to a new level this year. The senior has rushed for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns in just three games. He’s averaging 11.7 yards per carry.
“He’s (Franklin) not a guy you can completely shut down,” Stoyle said. “He’s strong and fast. He’s the MBC’s 100-meter champ.
“We want to limit his big play capability. Every game, he’s had a big play. We’ve got to force him to do things he doesn’t do on a regular basis.”
The Johnnies also have a big threat in quarterback Matt Smith. Smith has rushed for 265 yards and passed for another 190 in the three victories.
“Defensively, we’ve got to get their offense off the field. We’ve got to slow down their running game,” Stoyle said. “I think the most important thing is we’ve got to get off to a good start and match their intensity.”