Fort Loramie entered its first season in the Cross County Conference with high expectations. The Redskins had over 50 players (one of the largest rosters of CCC teams) and eight starters back on offense and defense.
The Redskins were vastly improved compared to their 2016 campaign, in which they finished 5-5. They finished 8-3 and reached the playoffs after missing in 2016, which was the first time in since 2008 they had missed the postseason.
A slow start and a thrashing at the hands of rival Minster in the playoffs left a sour taste in the mouths of some Fort Loramie fans, though — and led to coach Whit Parks resigning in December.
The 2017 season began with a sour taste for those involved in the program. Fort Loramie started 2016 0-4. Though the Redskins beat playoff qualifier Lehman Catholic 20-0 in Week 8, the last of their slim postseason hopes were dashed with a 50-29 loss to Upper Scioto Valley in Week 9.
With a large roster and many returning starters, Parks was hopeful heading into the season. However, he knew the team’s younger players would have to learn quickly. Though the team had depth, few to none of the backups had any experience. Of its over 50 players, seven were seniors.
“We’re hoping they can limit mistakes and work well with our returning guys,” Parks said of the teams young players.
Fort Loramie struggled with mistakes early. The Redskins lost to Minster 20-0 in Week 1 after twice driving in the red zone but turning the ball over. Another turnover led to a touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the Wildcats up 13-0.
The Redskins ran over Greenon in their home opener in Week 2 by taking advantage of several turnovers to earn a 54-16 win.
In Week 3, the Redskins earned a dramatic 28-21 win over Covington in their CCC opener. Senior running back Mike Hoying ran for 219 yards and three touchdowns as the team held off a late rally.
Fort Loramie took a 21-7 lead late in the third, but Covington cut Fort Loramie’s lead to one touchdown with 1:18 left in the fourth and then recovered an onside kick. The Buccaneers next four passes were incomplete, though, and Fort Loramie was able to hold on and win.
The Redskins hosted eventual CCC champion Miami East in Week 4, and as in their first loss were undone turnovers — and missed extra points.
Loramie trailed 13-7 at halftime but took the lead early in the third quarter. Junior running back Carter Mescher scored a 56-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third and Mike Hoying scored on a 32-yard run with 9:03 left to give the Redskins a 20-13 lead. Senior quarterback Austin Siegel then threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Mark Seger to increase the lead to 26-13.
Miami East’s Justin Brown changed all that before the end of the third, though. He broke loose on a 62-yard touchdown run that kept Miami East’s hopes alive and cut the lead to 26-20 heading into the fourth quarter. He then scored on a 9-yard run, and Jonah Brautigam’s extra point gave the Vikings a 27-26 lead with 5:31 to go.
Brown grabbed his second interception of the night at the 3:58 mark, and Miami East took the clock down to under a minute before giving the ball back for one last Redskin chance. But Blaine Brokschmidt picked off the Redskins’ desperation heave as time expired to put away the win.
Aside from two missed PAT attempts, turnovers and penalties hurt Loramie. The Redskins had two touchdowns called back due to penalties on the same drive in the second quarter, and Siegel was intercepted three times in the game.
“We made some mistakes and got hurt on a couple of calls, but that’s the way it is,” Parks said. “That’s real life. You get beat, you move on.”
After falling to 2-2, the Redskins did move on and ran through the rest of their CCC schedule.
Fort Loramie beat Ansonia 52-28 in Week 5. The Redskins jumped out to a 36-12 lead in the third quarter. Mescher and Hoying scored two touchdowns each in the game, which saw the Redskins try for two-point conversions after each touchdown. They tried for two-point conversions for most of the rest of the season.
Loramie beat Twin Valley South 46-0 in Week 6. Hoying ran for four touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass from Siegel, which pushed the lead to 32-0 late in the second quarter.
The Redskins built a 46-0 halftime lead over Mississinawa Valley in Week 7 in an eventual 55-0 victory. Hoying, Mescher and freshman Nate Meyer each ran for two touchdowns.
Fort Loramie beat Tri-Village 49-14 in Week 8. Hoying scored four touchdowns for the Redskins, which had 416 total yards of offense, 322 of which came on the ground. Tri-Village managed 122 total yards of offense.
The Redskins beat National Trail 51-0 in Week 9. Mescher ran for two touchdowns and an interception in the first quarter to help Fort Loramie pull out to a 22-0 lead.
Fort Loramie wrapped up CCC play with a 32-0 win over Tri-County North in the rain in Week 10. The Redskins scored all their points in the first half of the running-clock win.
After winning their final six games, Loramie finished fifth in Division VII, Region 28 to qualify for the playoffs and earn a rematch at Minster, which finished fourth.
Unlike the Week 1 matchup, though, Fort Loramie was outmanned. Minster, the eventual Div. VII state champion, amassed 358 yards in the first half and took a 40-0 lead over the Redskins, which had 98 yards in the first half. Fort Loramie scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter with Minster’s starters on the bench to limit the final score to 40-24.
Parks was optimistic about the program’s future after the playoff loss, but he resigned about a month later. He said Fort Loramie’s athletic department conducted an online survey in November that asked players and community members for anonymous input about the direction of the program.
“I really had no intentions of resigning after this season,” Parks said. “… But it was pretty apparent from that survey and the comments that were made that they really don’t want our program there anymore. So I thought it was best that I move on.”
Parks said Fort Loramie’s administration told him he had their full support even in light of the survey results, but he felt it was better to resign.
“One of the things that was a common thread in the surveys was that (the respondents) didn’t feel that our program could take them to the next level,” Parks said. “I guess that’s what came out a lot. …It was evident that there’s a large group that doesn’t want our program.”
Fort Loramie hired Spencer Wells in January to take over the program. Wells was an assistant at Wapakoneta and head previously coached at Allen East, Celina and Marion Local.
With most of the team returning in 2018, Wells and the Redskins will look for more success. The Redskins will open the season on Aug. 24 at home against Minster.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.