Troy combined the irresistible force (offense) and the immovable object (defense) for a convincing win over American North Division rival Sidney.
Troy – Music blared from the locker room at Troy Memorial Stadium. Players danced and celebrated inside as a large group of fans waited patiently outside to see Troy’s newest celebrities.
It was another appropriate scene outside Troy’s locker room considering, after all, the Trojans had just rocked and rolled another high school football opponent.
Troy added to Sidney’s injury-plagued struggles with a 31-6 victory Friday night in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, keeping the Trojans atop the American North Division. Troy and Piqua are both tied for the division lead at 3-0 with two games remaining, including what could be a winner-take-all, head-to-head clash in Week 10.
Defense made the difference for the Trojans (7-1 overall, 3-0 GWOC). And it was quite a contrast from last season’s performance in a 52-28 loss to Sidney (3-5, 0-3). A year ago Sidney gashed Troy with 357 yards rushing, including 153 from Isaiah Bowser.
On Friday, Bowser – who entered with a GWOC-leading 1,297 yards rushing – managed an unofficial 45 yards on 24 carries. The Yellow Jackets finished with 125 yards of total offense.
“They’ve got a very good offense,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “I don’t know what to say about our defense. It was awesome. Our defense won the game for us. We weren’t clicking offensively. We weren’t clicking special teams. The defense was bound and determined to stop Bowser.”
Bowser had logged seven straight 100-yard games, including a three-game stretch of 200-plus yards. But with Sidney down to its third quarterback this season with injuries to Andre Gordon (out after Week 2) and Jack Feazel (out after Week 4) defenses can focus on Bowser. Third-string quarterback Dillon King is athletic and filling in well, but faced a tough challenge against Troy.
“He’s a great player and you can’t take that away from him,” Troy linebacker Will Brumfield said of facing Bowser. “(Stopping him) was our goal. We set a high standard for ourselves and I think we came through.”
Sidney – a team accustomed to running upwards of 80 plays offensively per game – pumped the brakes to slow down the game’s tempo. It worked early as Troy managed a 10-0 lead deep into the first half.
“(Bowser) is a tough kid. He’s got to play both ways for us right now,” Doenges said. “I know we’re kind of one-dimensional right now, but I give a lot of credit to Troy’s defense. Their kids executed pretty well.
“We slowed the game down as much as we can. That was kind of by design. There’s no good time to have your quarterback go out. With a team like us, when one guy goes down it’s a chain effect. We’re not going to use it as an excuse. We have two more games left to right the ship.”
Troy, meanwhile, still has plenty to play for the final two regular-season games … and beyond. The Trojans entered the game holding the No. 1 spot in the Division II, Region 8 computer points. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs with the top four hosting first-round games. Two more wins also guarantee the Trojans their first league championship since 2000.
“We’re playing for a heck of a lot,” Burgbacher said. “It’s a new area for this group. But they’re not feeling the pressure. They’re enjoying the ride as long as they can.”
It took a little longer than usual Friday for the Trojans to get the offense rolling. But when they did they were almost unstoppable.
With 17 seconds left in the first quarter, Troy quarterback Hayden Kotwica hit receiver Matt McGillivary with a 16-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. After forcing a Sidney punt – one of five for the Yellow Jackets – Troy went up 10-0 on Jacob Anderson’s 29-yard field goal.
The score remained that way until 1:41 left before the half. A Sidney punt pinned Troy on its own 27. On the first play, Kotwica tossed a pass to running back Josh Browder in the flat. Browder turned the corner and sprinted down the Sidney sideline – slipping one tackle near midfield and avoiding getting tripped up from behind near the Jackets’ 30 – for the 73-yard touchdown.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids right now,” Burgbacher said. “Our kids were jacked up to play all week. That may have been our problem. … We didn’t come out with that energy we had all week. As a coach I have to do a better job. I was jacked up all week. It’s a process.”
Troy kept the momentum to start the second half. Sam Jackson’s interception led to a Zion Taylor 36-yard touchdown – and 24-0 lead – barely two minutes into the third quarter. Matt Scordia made it 31-0 midway through the fourth quarter with his three-yard run.
Sidney avoided the shutout in the closing minutes when Javon Purk picked up a fumbled snap and returned it about 30 yards for a touchdown. The extra point missed.
“We’ve got 10 seniors – it’s a smaller class – and they showed a lot of emotion when the game was over,” Doenges said. “I told the kids there are only two more weeks left in their career. We have two more home games left and we’ll keep playing.”
Kotwica completed 13-of-24 passes for 290 yards and rushed for about 90 more. Six different players caught passes for Troy, led by Browder’s two catches for 71 yards. Taylor caught three passes for 65 yards and Spencer Klopfenstein had three catches for 64 yards.
Troy’s defense also got in on the fun. Jackson had two interceptions – he had three last week against Butler – and Zach Boyer also picked off a pass. Boyer also deflected a fourth-down pass deep in Troy territory. The defense forced another turnover on downs a series earlier when they forced King to scramble and toss a pass that landed out of the back of the end zone from the Troy 11-yard line.
“We had some great moments tonight. But we still haven’t put a full game together,” Burgbacher said. “This is the best defensive game we played all season, without a doubt. Those guys have been doing it all year.”
Troy has faced four of the GWOC’s top-10 leading rushers so far. Most have had the same fate as Bowser.
Tipp’s Cole Barhorst averages 139 yards per game. He had 66 against Troy. Butler’s Logan Flatt averages 110. He finished with 92. And Miamisburg’s Tony Clark averaged 90 yards. He managed to hit 100 against the Trojans.
“In high school football you can win a lot of games if kids believe in the coaching, believe in the technique and get to the right spot. Right how Troy is doing that a lot better than anybody else,” Doenges said. “It’s a completely different team. The coaching staff is doing a nice job with them the second year around. They’re doing the right things. They’re healthy. They’re playing with a lot of confidence, that’s for sure.”
The Trojans attempt to keep it going next week at Greenville (3-5 overall, 0-3 GWOC) and then against rival Piqua (6-2, 3-0).
“I think we all knew we were good. I think it caught some of us off guard. I’m not going to lie,” Brumfield said of the Trojans’ dramatic turnaround from last season’s 2-8 record. “I think we all knew we had this potential. It was just playing up to that level we know Troy football should be at. That was the hardest part.”
“We talked a lot about that this week,” Burgbacher said of handling pressure and expectations. “The boys did it. They did it to themselves. … I told them they’re the ones that got this community excited. They’re the ones that got this town going crazy for Troy football again. Let’s go take advantage of it. … This is a great feeling for our kids. They’re (in the locker room) dancing and everything else. This is a good win for Troy and our community.”