Trojans remain ever-optimistic for this year
SALTSBURG — There is never a lack of optimism in Saltsburg’s camp, but in recent years, the Trojans’ expectations haven’t quite panned out.
But this could be the year that changes.
“We have a lot of things this year that maybe we didn’t have in other years,” senior Tyler Frassenei said. “It’s a new team and a new season, and we can’t worry about what happened in the past.”
Saltsburg, which hasn’t had a winning season since 1996, has won just three games combined in the past two seasons. With a more athletic roster and an expanded playbook, coach Tim Frassenei hopes this could be the Trojans’ breakout year.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but I absolutely think we will see some wins this year,” Tim Frassenei said. “The wins we have managed to get in the past couple of years have only come out of hard work. We won games because we bust ourselves for four quarters. This year, we’re a little bit more athletic, and that’s going to translate into wins.”
The list of athletes on Saltsburg’s roster starts with three-year starter Tyler Frassenei. The senior started the season at quarterback last season and then moved to wide receiver during the third game. He passed for 87 yards, rushed for 157 and had 33 receptions for 455 yards.
Frankie Plowman, now a sophomore, took over at quarterback last season and completed 92 of 182 passes for 1,122 yards with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
“We do have a lot of good athletes,” Tim Frassenei said. “A lot of kids are working for those athletic positions — our slots and splits. It’s a very, very nice problem to have. We can move Tyler and Frankie around to where we need them. Frankie will start at split end, and Tyler is going to do the quarterbacking, but that’s only for a short time. Frankie will definitely be in there taking snaps, and Tyler will play some receiver and running back. And it’s not even just those two, but that’s where it all begins.”
With just 29 players on the roster, Saltsburg won’t have a lot of depth, but the Trojans do possess some experience. Fifteen of the 16 juniors and seniors are letterwinners.
Jimmy Beitel also returns. He has switched from running back to offensive line.
“There have been a lot of changes with the offense because we’re moving a lot of people around, but we like what we see so far,” Beitel said. “We’re ready to get out there to really see what we can do. I think as a team, we have improved greatly this year.”
Senior Zach Sinclair and junior Tanner Yard will be part of the mix, adding more options for the Trojans. Tim Frassenei said this season will require a larger amount of film work because of the changes in the offense.
“We have a bunch of different packages, and those combinations will allow us to use a lot of different motions,” he said. “When you add in kids like Tanner and Zach Sinclair, they can really move around, too. As a coach, it makes my job more difficult, but in a good way. We have to figure out where to put all these kids, and we will look to see where the mismatches are and where we can best use their abilities in the games.”
Saltsburg wants to gain momentum early, but the Trojans will be tested in their first two games against a seasoned Purchase Line team and defending District 6 champion Homer-Center.
“The kids understand that to win in this conference is not an easy thing,” Tim Frassenei said. “You aren’t going to have an easy game on the schedule. If you can get a couple wins early in the season, it helps with confidence. The kids are buying into it, and we’re on the right road.”
The Trojans open and close the season against Purchase Line. Playing the same team to start and end the season will be a good indicator of the Trojans’ season.
“It’s a strange situation, playing them twice like that,” Tim Frassenei said. “You can’t look past anybody in the conference, especially not Purchase Line. They have an outstanding ball club coming back. They are a very frightening ball team, and I know they’re going to be prepared.
“I actually like the Week1-Week 10 matchup because your goal is always to be better at the end of the year, and it will be easy to tell this year exactly how much you’ve improved.”
Part of the problem for the Trojans in the past few years has been an array of injuries.
“You hate to make excuses, but we haven’t been able to stay healthy,” Tyler Frassenei said. “Those injuries have brought us down, and if we stay healthy, there are a lot of things we can surprise people with.
“It’s fun because I like playing receiver and so does (Plowman), and I like playing quarterback and so does he. We both get to switch roles, and teams are going to have to prepare every week for different stuff because you don’t know which one of us is going to be back there.”
An element of surprise might be just what the Trojans need to throw at their opponents. They have attempted to put the ball in the air in the past but have been primarily a run-first team.
“We have a lot of improvements this year, and I’m looking forward to it,” Plowman said. “We’ve been mixing it up, and we have some advantages that people don’t know that we have. We are just ready to get out there and get some wins and hopefully make a run to the playoffs. We think we can actually get there this year.”