Wittenberg’s new quarterback waited a long time for first start

Bobby Froelich ran for two scores, passed for one in win vs. Hiram

Many Wittenberg quarterbacks have waited until their junior season for their first start. That was the story for Ben Zoeller, Reed Florence and Zack Jenkins. In a six-year period (2010-15), each of those players started for two seasons, and they rank among the top-five passers in school history.

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The starter in 2019, Bobby Froehlich, joins that club, but his wait was much longer when you throw in his high school career. Froehlich played for three Division II state championship teams at Cincinnati La Salle but never started.

When Froehlich took the first snap Saturday at Hiram, it was the first time he had started at quarterback at the varsity level in high school or college.

“It was awesome starting for Wittenberg,” Froehlich said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play college football. I’m glad Wittenberg gave me a chance to show my skills. We always talk about my why, and my why was always, ‘I’ve got to prove people wrong back home.’ That’s what really drives me every day.”

At La Salle, Froehlich said he was stuck behind Tresean Smith, who’s now a junior safety for the Louisville Cardinals, and Griffin Merritt, who plays baseball for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

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At Wittenberg, Froehlich played behind three-year starter Jake Kennedy, who finished his career as the school’s all-time leading passer, for two years. He was Kennedy’s backup last season and appeared in four games, completing 1 of 5 passes for six yards and a touchdown.

Florence, who’s now Wittenberg’s offensive coordinator said Froehlich has unique size for a quarterback at the the Division III level — he’s 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds — and has come a long way since his freshman year.

“He really took a leadership role this offseason,” Florence said, “and you started to see things click during the winter. He worked extremely hard all spring and this summer, and it’s paying off for him.”

Even this year as the favorite to win a job, Froehlich had to wait for his turn. He battled knee pain in the preseason.

“It started to become a mental game,” Froehlich said. “Am I going to be able to go do it? Am I going to be able to play? Am I going to be able to run and scramble like I’m used to? Then it got to the point where I was cleared and I put the brace on, and I had to get used to it, but once I hit the field, it was just like usual.”

Froehlich had not practiced enough to earn the start in the opener, so Wittenberg started sophomore Blake King in the 16-8 loss at Washington & Jefferson. Froehlich played the last two series in that game but was unable to engineer a comeback. He completed 1 of 3 passes for 17 yards and threw an interception on the first play of Wittenberg's last drive.

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In Wittenberg's second game, Froehlich took all the snaps. He completed 24 of 43 passes for 218 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions in a 36-12 victory against Hiram. He scored Wittenberg's first two touchdowns on short runs.

“He did a really good job of staying calm in the pocket,” Florence said. “He showed a lot of poise back there. Even when he had pressure in his face, he stood there and took a hit and delivered some throws. That was a good thing to see. We’ve got a lot to work on, but there’s a lot of good things we can build off of.”

Froehlich will get the ball again in Wittenberg’s home opener at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against Wooster (2-0) at Edwards-Maurer Field.

“I’ve got to start reading defenses better, and I’ve got to start controlling the tempo,” he said. “I was a little nervous in my first game as anybody would be, but now I’m more comfortable back there. I’ve got to be calm, cool and collected as coach Flo always talks about. I’ve just got to control the offense.”

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