FREDERICKTOWN – In a season where nothing seemed to go right, Fredericktown’s offensive struggles stood out in 2018.
The Freddies scored just 11 points per game – second-worst in the KMAC – and were held to a touchdown or less seven times. As the season progressed, the end zone grew increasingly elusive; Fredericktown scored just 20 total points in its final four games.
This called for a change. Something needed to be done. So, this offseason, second-year head coach Beau Wolford scrapped the system.
The Freddies will go from a spread offense to a Wing-T this season. They will look to mask their lack of size with angle blocks and downhill running. They’ll use senior quarterback Terry Fearn, junior halfback Steven Tumbleson and senior fullback Corey Webb to wear teams down at the line of scrimmage.
“We’re going to pound the ball and then whenever they fall asleep, we’ll throw it,” Fearn said.
This offensive approach hearkens back to Freddie teams of old, as Fredericktown clung to the Power-I system for years before Wolford arrived last fall. Wolford implemented the spread offense because he’d grown accustomed to it during his time at Cardington; however, such a system requires big, physical offensive linemen to block for the quarterback, which Fredericktown did not have. Opposing defenses were able to overpower the Freddies up front and get into the backfield, which disrupted the flow of the offense.
Both Wolford and his players seem confident the Wing-T offense, which is predicated heavily on the run – sweeps, traps and counters – will fit the team’s personnel best this season.
"We knew coming back we were going to have some smaller guys, guys that have a lot of heart and that are hard workers, but as far as size and weight, they just didn’t have it," Wolford said. "So we needed to go to a system that’s going to allow them to be successful, and the Wing-T does that for us."
The Freddies will need new names to step up this season, as several key playmakers from last year’s team have graduated. John Robbins, the team’s second-leading rusher, is gone. So is Jack Fitzpatrick, the team’s all-conference linebacker and leading receiver. Tanner Ruhl and Owen Bump, both all-KMAC linemen, have graduated, as has defensive back Jake Partington.
Fredericktown will rely heavily on Fearn to carry the load this fall. Fearn earned second-team all-KMAC honors last year, despite sitting out the end of the season with an injury. He started at quarterback and threw seven touchdown passes, while also leading the team with 470 rushing yards. He registered 37 tackles and one interception defensively as well.
Webb is back, too. He led the team with 69 tackles last fall, and he also caught nine passes. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Tumbleson, a state-level pole vaulter who decided to pick up football this year. Junior Gene Fitzpatrick and senior Alec Ziegman will anchor the Fredericktown offensive line.
After a brutal 2018 season, where the Freddies won just one game and lost by an average of 30 points per contest, Wolford believes the program is heading in the right direction. Staff changes were made this offseason, he said, and the players have continued to learn and develop.
Still, 2019 won’t be easy for the Freddies. Of the program’s 29 players, 14 are freshmen. The younger players will have to learn quickly, Wolford said, if Fredericktown wishes to succeed this season.
“Everybody in the league, everybody in the area is seeing some number issues. You know, it just comes down to finding ways to get guys breaks and finding ways to get young guys some time to grow and to be a part of what we’re doing,” Wolford said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys out here that are going to see some time on Friday nights.”
Fredericktown’s upperclassmen will be charged with showing the freshmen the ropes this fall. They’re a determined bunch, Wolford said; this year’s senior class said it wants to compete for a conference championship.
“We’re going to hold them to that,” Wolford said. “That just means more work, more dedication, and working to fix things every day.”
Last season, Fredericktown often found itself down early. Opponents would jump out to large leads and the thin Freddies could never recover. The key this season, Wolford said, will be to hang tough early in games and close the deal late.
“The two big things we’ve really been working on, focusing on, harping on, is being able to start and being able to finish,” Wolford said. “Usually in that middle zone, we’ve done pretty well and been able to compete. So we’ve just been putting a huge emphasis on our guys to come out and start fast and start strong, and end the same way.”
After going 1-9 last fall, this year’s senior class is determined to point the program in a positive direction on its way out. Wideout Kailin Horlacher believes this could be the year Fredericktown “starts the comeback.” Fearn agrees.
“We’ve just gotta start the uphill trend and just do the best that we can,” Fearn said, “and hope that it just keeps getting better.”