They were effective enough on offense, and prohibitive on defense. The combination led impressive young Troy to an impressive opening win over Trotwood.
By: Greg Billing
Troy – A scenic but silent display of lightning halted Troy High School’s season opener at halftime Friday night.
When the game resumed Saturday morning, the Trojans brought the thunder.
With Trotwood-Madison driving toward a potential game-winning touchdown, Troy junior Logan Hubbard fought off his blocker and crashed into the Rams’ quarterback. It forced a rushed lob pass that settled into the arms of senior linebacker Will Brumfield, who cradled his first career interception at the Trojans’ 17-yard line with 1:30 left to play.
Brumfield’s interception all but sealed Troy’s surprising 10-6 win over Trotwood, a team that has reached the state semifinals the past six seasons.
“I’m known to have stone hands at times,” Brumfield said, smiling. “It was good to catch that one. … I was in the right spot at the right time. It was a beautiful play all around.”
The win was surprising, but not shocking considering Troy beat Trotwood 21-20 last season. That game was played without Trotwood running back Raveion Hargrove, who rushed for 3,039 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2015.
Hargrove, a shifty and tough 5-foot-7, 165-pounder, wasn’t a factor this time, either.
Troy’s game plan in holding Hargrove to an unofficial 75 yards on 17 carries?
“We just tried to keep him in front of us,” Troy assistant coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Burgbacher said matter-of-factly.
Hargrove’s longest carry went for 14 yards and resulted in Trotwood’s lone score in the first quarter Friday night.
Last season, Hargrove had 11 games of 181 yards or more. He had nine games of 200-plus yards and four games of 300-plus.
The effort to bottle up Hargrove began with nose guard Hubbard and junior defensive tackles Joah Schricker and Christian Nation. On the few times Hargrove broke through, senior linebackers Jacob Stewart, Michael Murray, Brumfield and junior John Wehrkamp – among others – helped clean up.
Senior safety Jake Anderson ended Trotwood’s first drive Friday with an interception off a tipped deflection from a teammate at Troy’s 6-yard line. He halted a fourth-quarter drive Saturday with another huge pass breakup on third down.
“In my eyes our defense gave up zero points in this game,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “We put our defense in bad situations. To keep Hargrove under 100 yards, obviously he was a big focus. He couldn’t get out in the open field and I thought our kids did wonderful. I don’t know what to say about our defense. It was flat out awesome.”
On Trotwood’s last drive – and needing a touchdown trailing 10-6 – the Rams went to the air.
After a 25-yard punt return, Trotwood started on its own 40-yard line with 2:31 to play. Quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers, who was 0-for-7 in the second half prior to the final drive, completed consecutive passes of 9, 4, and 17 yards put the Rams on the Trojans’ 30.
The Trojans’ defense then delivered the boom with Hubbard’s hit and Brumfield’s interception.
“I just went for it,” Hubbard said of his hit. “I thought I just had the sack. I didn’t know he threw it yet.”
Did he know Brumfield intercepted the pass?
“No, I did not,” he said.
Did he hear the roar of the crowd?
“Yes. I did,” he grinned. “I turned around and saw him with the ball and everyone cheering. It was a great moment.”
A Trotwood team that averaged 442 yards overall last season (331 of them rushing) unofficially finished with 154 total yards against Troy.
Of the Rams’ 13 drives, five ended in Trojans territory. But the Rams ended with as many punts (9) as points (6).
“I think the biggest thing for us is buying into our defensive coordinator’s system,” Brumfield said. “Playing with confidence, it’s a big thing we didn’t have last year. We think our offense is one of the best in the GWOC right now. Playing against them strengthens everything we do.”
That offense – led by senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica – helped Troy take a 10-6 lead with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
Kotwica scored on a 21-yard scamper up the middle, stepping out of a tackle at the 10-yard line and sprinting to the end zone.
“We had a pep rally the other day and it felt like everybody believed in us,” Kotwica said. “We believed in our team.”
Kotwica led Troy’s ground game with 86 yards on 20 carries. He also completed 8-of-20 passes for 78 yards.
“We weren’t on with our passing game,” Matt Burgbacher said. “But if you’re going to play quarterback at Troy you’re going to carry the football. … I thought we had a couple drives where our offensive line dominated. We just need to work on that consistency. But you know, you gotta give Trotwood credit. Everybody wants to talk about Trotwood’s offense, but that defense is one heck of a defense.”
Troy finished with 261 yards of offense.
Like Trotwood, Troy also missed on some opportunities. Troy had six drives reach Trotwood territory and capitalized with Kotwica’s TD and senior Jake Anderson’s 21-yard field goal on Friday.
The Trojans came inches away from a TD to start the fourth. But Kotwica put a little too much air on a pass from the Trotwood 24-yard line that glanced off the finger tips of a wide-open receiver.
That missed opportunity doesn’t matter now.
And to hear the Trojans talk, neither does the Trotwood win when Monday arrives. Troy started last season with at 42-31 win against Chaminade Julienne. The Trojans lost their next five before beating Trotwood – a win that snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Rams – in that 2-8 season.
On Monday Troy’s focus turns to Cincinnati Northwest, a team that beat Troy 28-26 last season. The Trojans aren’t so much looking to avenge last season’s loss to Northwest as they are trying to learn how to deal with success. Troy lost three games last season by five points or less.
“This is one of the biggest wins of my career so far,” Brumfield said. “But we have bigger aspirations so you can’t get too hung up on this. On Monday it’s Northwest. This game never happened. We can’t get too full of ourselves.”
Matt Burgbacher knows football fans around the state will look at the score and wonder if Troy played that good or if Trotwood played that bad. That’s fine with him. The boisterous celebration coming from Troy’s locker room was more than enough to drown out any critics on this day.
“I think we’re still going to have doubters,” he said. “All I’m worried about are those kids in the locker room. Those kids believe in themselves and they believe in their teammates. That’s all I really care about.
“Besides our program and a few people here in town, there wasn’t too many people who were expecting this. But our kids really believed. This is a unique group. This group is loose. They’re not cocky, they’re not arrogant. But they are confident. They want to make a statement. They want to be that team that gets Troy back to where we want to be.”
The Trojans took a major step Saturday with an impressive display of their own.