Friday, October 30, 2015

Piqua 26 Troy 7

First off—and let the record show that I've been harping on this from the very beginning and will continue to do so until it's a thing of the past, which will probably be never—this Great American Rivalry nonsense has got to go. With all due respect (and then some) to the U.S. Marine Corps, the sponsor of the event, this game doesn't need any hoopla it doesn't generate on its own. Yeah, it's cool that a player on each team gets a small scholarship, but that's the only real benefit I see. I hate seeing them pulled out of their pregame routine for recognition—and yes, I realize it happens too for Homecoming, Senior Night, etc., so if that were the end of it, I guess I could live with it. But what I really hate is all the postgame crap. This game doesn't need a trophy or an MVP. Get the kids off the field so they can celebrate/commiserate in the locker room. And yes, I feel the same way when it's Troy's kids dancing on Piqua's field instead of the other way around.

On the other hand, if I'm Troy coach Matt Burgbacher, I'm not sure it was the worst thing in the world to have your team take a respectful knee on the sidelines to watch the spectacle. If I'm him, I'm pointing at those kids in red and blue jumping up and down on the Trojan star and saying something to the effect of, "You like that? Remember how this feels. You want to avoid this feeling, you need to work harder and get better. Next year that's going to be us."

(Not that I think the Troy kids didn't or don't work hard. Still, you take your motivation where you can find it.)

The story on this night was Piqua's relentless, punishing ground game. Troy's defense kept it more or less in check for longer quite a while, but eventually they just got worn down. I have to give them a lot of credit, though—they kept fighting to the end, even when the game was pretty much decided. There was no quit in these kids.

The problem, really, was that they just spent so much time on the field (GWOC stats show Piqua with over 32 minutes of possession), and that's because Troy's offense just couldn't sustain drives (they had the ball for just over 15 minutes). They did some things here and there, and they were finally able to put a TD on the board late in the game to keep it from being a shutout, at least. Early in the game, it looked like they wanted to test Piqua's defense deep, and that looked like a good strategy as the Trojan receivers were torching their defenders with regularity. Unfortunately, QB Hayden Kotwica had a couple of overthrows, and even when he did hit them, his receivers had a case of the dropsies all night. And that was it, really. A few more catches, this is a different game; a closer game, at least.

And that's the season. These ten weeks always fly by, at least for me. As trying as the season was at times, I'd happily load up and make another trek next week for another game. Sadly, there are no more, at least for the Trojans. They finish the year at 2-8, dead last in the GWOC North with a 1-4 conference mark. They can pack their equipment away and start getting ready for basketball, while other teams (Piqua among them, it seems, as much as it pains me to say) gear up for the postseason. I'm sure I'll have more to say about the totality of the Trojan season and program in the coming days.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Butler 33 Troy 28

Oh, Trojans. Oh, so close.

Even without the win, this was a game for the ages. It was a back-and-forth contest all night, with Troy's decision to go for (and score) two points after their first touchdown looking like it might play a major role in the final outcome. Trojan quarterback Hayden Kotwica threw for well over 400 yards, breaking a 55-year-old school record, and, perhaps more importantly, the defense also put together a relatively decent game, holding Butler's leading rusher to just 59 yards on 16 carries.

It wasn't quite enough for the Trojans to pull the upset, however. In the end it was turnovers that cost them, as they gave the ball away three times without taking it away from the Aviators at all. One of those resulted in a 75-yard scoop-and-score that gave Vandalia its first lead, 27-22, with just a few ticks left in the third quarter. The Trojans had a couple of chances after Butler scored with about half the fourth quarter remaining for the final margin, but they just couldn't get there. On one, Trojan receiver Luke Robinson (who had a monster game himself) had his hands on a pass in the endzone, but the Butler defender was able to knock it away.

Still, this was the kind of game that I've been looking for from the Trojans--they weren't perfect by any means, but they played well enough to have a shot in the end. That's impressive, especially given that Butler is undefeated in the conference (the win tonight clinched the championship for them, actually), and given the records, most people would have expected them to win this one going away. Instead the Trojans gave them a hell of a fight, and if one of a handful of plays had gone a different way, they would have held on. Hell, if just two or three of those plays had gone the other way, it would have been Troy laying the wood, score-wise.

And I have to say, the effort did not go unnoticed by Trojan fans in the stands (if we've got spirit, clap our hands). After the game, in what I sincerely hope is a new tradition, the team gathered in front of the home stands for the alma mater, and they received a warm standing ovation. It was pretty awesome, and again, one of those moments that reminds me of all the things I love about sports. If I would have had the presence of mind to pull my phone out of my pocket, that would have been the image I would have captured to lead off this post, but I too was caught up in the moment (and I regret nothing).

So now the Trojans find themselves at 2-7, 1-3 in the conference. Next week is Week 10, and lest you think that Troy, with that record, has nothing left to play for, well, think again. It's actually the biggest game of the season, the one that can wipe away all the other bitter moments if only they can pull it out. That's right, boys and girls: it's Piqua week. The two rivals are hooking up for the 131st time, and the series stands tied at 62-62-6; Piqua has won the last three. The game will be held at Troy Memorial Stadium, and I'll be there for my 25th in a row. (The first I attended was in 1992, my sophomore year at THS; I haven't missed one since. Fittingly, the record stands tied at 12-12 in those games). Piqua comes in at 5-4 with an outside chance of making the playoffs with a win. I'd prefer not to see that happen, and I imagine the Trojans themselves feel the same way. So let's do this, shall we?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sidney 52 Troy 28

I'm in no great hurry to talk about this game. So let me warm up by starting with last week, when Troy played at Trotwood, a game I did not attend.

When I looked over Troy's schedule prior to the start of the season, I pegged the Trotwood game as one I was unlikely to attend. Trotwood is on the far (west) side of Dayton, and making it there for a 7:00 pm kickoff when I get off work at 5:00 on the north side of Columbus is a little too much to ask. And then when I realized that my schedule actually had me working in Toledo for the day, that sealed the deal—even if I was inclined to go, I'd be lucky to get there by halftime, when—let's be honest—the Trojans would probably already be facing a running clock, facing the powerful, state-ranked Rams.

Not worth it.

So instead I drove home to Worthington from Toledo; and, as I hate to let a Friday in the fall go by without attending a game of some sort, I walked over to see the local Thomas Worthington High School game, where I was treated to a fair spectacle of very bad football. After I had been there for a few minutes, I decided to check in on Twitter to see how the Trojans were doing. (Thanks, @TheFong.)

The Trojans were leading 14-0 at halftime.

I immediately regretted my decision to not try to go, even though that was completely irrational. And I cautioned myself that there was still a full half left to play, and reminded myself that Troy also held Trotwood scoreless in the first half last year, only to give up four TDs in the second half and lose 28-0. Still, I was glued to Twitter from there on out, relentlessly refreshing my timeline for score updates as I hoped against hope that the Trojans could hold on.

And hold on they did, stuffing a two-point try late in the game to eke out a 21-20 win, the first time they've beaten Trotwood since 2005, and the first time Trotwood has lost in the conference since 2007. As this is the Rams' last year in the conference, I was ecstatic the Trojans were able to give them a bloody nose on the way out and at least give them a little reminder of the days when the GWOC North didn't just roll over for them (quite the opposite, in fact—@TheFong informs me that Troy's all-time record against Trotwood now stands at 22-12, which, of course, would have been 21-3 in the Trojans' favor before Trotwood's nine straight wins from 2006-14).

Aside from the thrill of beating Trotwood, of course, the win gave the Trojans two on the year. After seven games, that's not much to get excited about, except that it doubled their total from last year's 1-9 disaster season. And Sidney, this week's opponent, was the one team they did beat last year (a 27-0 win). I was really hoping the Trojans would come out, play well, get another hard-earned victory, and get a little confidence and momentum heading into the last two weeks of the season.


Sidney is much improved from last year. Their freshman QB/sophomore RB duo of Andre Gordon and Isaiah Bowser are going to give the GWOC North fits for a couple of years to come, I'm afraid. Add another week of not-particularly-inspired play from the Trojans into the mix, and you get a blowout result like this. Had they been able to make just a couple of plays go a different way, especially early on, I really think this would have been a competitive game. Instead, it went south fast (Sidney was up 22-0 after one quarter), and Troy was never able to recover. They did get the offense going a little bit, but the defense...ugh, this defense. But again, credit Sidney on that score, and especially their young playmakers. They were determined not to let the Trojans back into the game, and they didn't.

And Piqua beat Trotwood tonight, too, so that takes a little bit of luster off last week's win as well. I mean, I'm glad to see Trotwood getting some comeuppance on their way out, but Piqua? No thanks. I don't root for those guys against anybody.

So there are now two weeks, two games, left in this season, and if the Trojans are looking for a break, they can forget about it. Next week they face the Butler Aviators, another team they've traditionally dominated (21-12), but who is currently sitting atop the standings with an unblemished 3-0 conference record and at 6-2 overall. On the bright side, they will be back at Troy Memorial Stadium for the first time in three weeks, and emotions should be high for Senior Night. I'll be there, cheering like hell for them to shock the conference again.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Greenville 27 Troy 14

Let's start with the positives, shall we?


Oh, wait! I've got one! I took a different route to the game from Columbus, and it was much better, despite the fact that it was almost entirely country roads instead of interstate. There was a little bit of inexplicable stop-and-go, but not nearly as much as on Route 315 and Insterstates 670 and 70. Now, I still need to look for an alternate route out of town for any games south of Troy, but for home games, I think I'm golden.

There's no way to sugarcoat this: the Trojans were bad tonight. No disrespect intended toward Greenville, who has a pretty decent team, but this one should have at least been interesting, but the Trojans just couldn't make it so. As bad as they were, they still managed a slim 14-13 lead at halftime; even competent play could have kept them in it or given them a win. Alas, it was not to be.

The one bright spot on the night was defensive back Bailey Williams (no relation), who was responsible for both Trojan touchdowns. The first he scooped and scored after a blocked field goal that I was stunned Greenville actually tried to kick. The second was an interception that he more or less returned for a touchdown. (He returned the interception to the endzone, but it was called back due to a penalty; still, the good field position led to Troy's lone offensive TD.)

There were some flashes of good things that made it seem like the Trojans could pull this out if they wanted to. The blocked field goal. A blocked extra point. A goal-line stand. But for the most part, I'm flummoxed by how bad the defense was--partially because defense was Troy's redeeming aspect under Coach Brewer and it's amazing the difference from last year to this, and partially because I really though Coach (Charlie) Burgbacher would have them whipped into an acceptable shape by this point of the season. Not so much, at least not tonight. Greenville receivers were often open behind the entire Trojan defense; bad angles were taken; tackling was bad.

Another thing I just want to mention: as long as Coach (Matt) Burgbacher is in charge of this program, Trojan fans need to learn that they can't expect any favors from the officials. He's not shy about getting in their ear pretty vociferously, so it can't come as any surprise later in the game when, say, a receiver gets bumped a little early and no flag comes out. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

So after two straight home games, the Trojans go on the road again next week to take on the Trotwood-Madison Rams. I'll be pulling for the good guys from afar, I'm afraid; Trotwood is a little further than I can expect to make it in time for kickoff from Columbus (or maybe Toledo--my work schedule may have me up north on Friday). I'm going to stay close to home, for once--weather permitting, I think I'm going to stroll just a couple of blocks north to check out the Thomas Worthington Cardinals. And if the weather doesn't permit, I may just stay on the couch with a movie and a cocktail.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Xenia 45 Troy 42

I was at this game, but I don't have very much to say about it. Not because it wasn't a memorable game--it actually got pretty crazy toward the end. No, the reason I don't have much to say about it is because I was at the game with a group of my fellow alumni from Troy High School's class of 1995, and so I wasn't paying as much attention to the game as I usually do.

All I can say is that the Trojans got off to a really slow start. It actually looked like it was going to get ugly for a while, despite both teams' identical 1-3 record coming in. Xenia led 24-7 at half, and a score to begin the fourth quarter put them up 38-14. However, Troy's furious rally began at that point, scoring four TDs from there (in about a five-minute span, actually) to end up with the oh-so-close final score. They actually had another drive as the clock was winding down, and it looked like they were really going to pull it out, when the Buccaneers came away with an interception to seal it.

I was pretty impressed by how loud the Troy crowd got as the game got closer and closer. Troy Memorial Stadium hasn't rocked like that in quite some time. Two game have been played there now this season, two close losses for the home team by a grand total of five points. The Trojans will get another chance to put their first home win on the board next week when they play the Greenville Green Wave (2-3) for Homecoming.

(Also: I had a great time with my classmates. Looking forward to the actual reunion tomorrow night.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wayne 49 Troy 7

As the final score indicates, there really isn't a whole lot to talk about as far as the game is concerned. So let's spend a few minutes first talking about pet peeves. (And no, I'm not going to talk about Friday afternoon Columbus traffic for a change, although I could. Oh, I could.)

First pet peeve: being charged for parking. Dear Wayne: you have a giant parking lot that can accommodate everyone who comes to the game. Charging people $2 to park in said giant parking lot is just a blatant money grab, especially when there aren't really any other parking options. Moreover, this parking lot is part of a public high school. How can you even justify a parking charge? You can't. Stop doing it.

(They also charge $5 for a program. Come on. It's too much.)

Second pet peeve: stadium seats. Ironic given their name, but I don't think these abominations should even be allowed into stadiums. Okay, so that's a little harsh, if you're going to use them, maybe don't come in and set them up directly in front of someone who's claimed a spot in the row behind you. You don't seem to care, but that person has knees, and putting that stadium seat in front of them means they're going to have to contort themselves into some unreasonably uncomfortable position, or else say "screw it" and just let those knees bore into the back of your seat. So, yeah. If you need/want a stadium seat, please find a relatively open area to locate yourself.

Although it didn't come into play tonight, it's the same deal with umbrellas. You bring an umbrella into a stadium, all you're doing is blocking the view of the people behind you, and dripping on them as well. If you're coming to a game where rain might be a factor, do everyone a favor and invest in a poncho or raincoat.

Third pet peeve: the running clock rule. For those who may not be aware, last year the OHSAA instituted a new rule that dictates a running clock for any game in which the point differential is 30 points or greater in the second half. The score of this game was 49-0 at halftime, so the running clock was in effect for the entire second half. I'm not vehemently opposed to the rule itself (although I was when it started; I've come around) - I just think it needs to be tweaked. I think the clock should still stop under all the normal circumstances - first downs, incompletions, runner going out of bounds, etc. - and then the clock can be restarted once the ball is marked ready for play. I get shortening blowouts, but I just don't think the clock should move if a play can't be run.

Fourth pet peeve: Troy playing Wayne at all. I may or may not have written about this before, but the story goes like this. In the mid to late 1990s, when Troy was the dominant football power in the Dayton area and Wayne was nowhere near what they've become, I'm given to understand that a series of games was scheduled between the two teams, and Wayne backed out of it, wanting no part of Ryan Brewer and Matt Dallman and the smashmouth attack the Trojans were using to steamroll teams at the time. Now that the tables are turned, though, the Trojans show up and take their medicine when Wayne shows up on the schedule, which they do an inordinate amount of the time, and I suppose that goes to show...well, something, although I'm not sure what.

Now! That story may or may not be true, and even if it is, it's probably no longer relevant. Jay Minton has been Wayne's coach for a long time, but I'm not sure if he was there when all that allegedly went down, and I know Troy's athletic and football administrations have turned over more than once in the interim. It's probably time for me to get over it, but I haven't yet.

In fact, when this game was played last year at Troy Memorial Stadium, I opted out, choosing instead to stay in town and go see the Kilbourne Wolves play instead. As that game ended in a 54-0 blowout in favor of Wayne, I'd say I made the right choice. Part of me wishes I had done it again this year. I didn't expect a win (although I never rule them out), but I went in hopes that they would find a way to make things interesting, even if only for a while. Those hopes were in vain; Troy was never in this one. Wayne's offensive and defensive lines were just as impressive as Miamisburg's last week, and Wayne has a full stable of ridiculous athletes to complement those lines at the skill positions. One of those athletes was quarterback Messiah DeWeaver; frankly, I had enough of him when he played for Trotwood. On the bright side, now that he's transferred to Wayne, at least he's out of the way in Week 4 and we don't have to see him again in divisional conference play.

It's now been two ugly losses in a row for Troy, but take heart, Trojan fans. The schedule from this point on should be a lot more evenly matched (I'm not sure what Trotwood has, but I can't help but feel that they're on their way back to the pack). Next week, the Trojans return home to Troy Memorial Stadium for just the second time this season, where they'll take on the Xenia Buccaneers, who earned their first win of the season tonight. I'll be there with a cadre of my old classmates, as the THS Class of 1995 descends upon the town to celebrate a 20-year reunion. Watch out, Troy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Miamisburg 43 Troy 15

Another rain-soaked Friday, another interminable slog through inexplicably slow Columbus interstate traffic. To top it off, my GPS (I use the Waze app) took me not to Harmon Field, but rather to a random spot several block northwest of where I needed to be. I suppose I should be grateful it directed me to Miamisburg, at least. I really like Harmon Field and its neighborhood location, but the fact that there's no parking lot to speak of is a bit of a pain when you're pressed for time as it is. The streets nearby were all packed, but I managed to find a spot a couple of blocks south.

Needless to say, I had plenty of time on the drive to wonder why I put myself through this each week and if it's worth it to keep doing to going forward. After all, I've been out of Troy High School for 20 years now (my reunion is coming up in a couple of weeks); maybe the time has come to hang it up.

And then I buy my ticket and walk through the gate, and as soon as I see the field shining green in the stadium lights, see the players on the field getting ready and the cheerleaders doing their routine on the track, and hear the announcer over the loudspeaker and the band playing the national anthem--it's like coming home. When the Trojans are playing, there is nowhere in the world that I'd rather be, and it makes all the traffic snarls and parking snafus worth it (even if it's a close thing sometimes).

And it's funny that I mention all that tonight, because this is the kind of night that makes people question my sanity when I tell them I'm still following my old high school team all these years later (especially now that I'm not exactly local). While, unlike last week, there at least weren't any lightning delays, the weather varied from light drizzle to steady downpour, generally getting heavier as the night went on. As the score got a little lopsided, plenty of folks fled early; as for me, I enjoyed my time in the stands, wet through it may have been, and let the traffic clear out while I stuck around to the bitter end. As always.

The game did get a little lopsided. It was a victory of sorts that the Trojans were able to keep it interesting for as long as they did, and that they didn't let it become a running-clock situation. And that's because Miamisburg has become what Troy used to be: a very solid football team that imposes its will on opponents through physical line play and a dominant running game. Offensive lineman Josh Myers, an Ohio State commit, is already rated as one of the best lineman in the country as a junior, and he lived up to that hype tonight. He's the real deal. The Vikings only threw the ball four times on the night, and didn't really even have to do it that many.

The Trojans, on the other hand, only attempted 17 rushes on the night, which is, I'm sure, the lowest I, and many people, have ever seen from them, given that they were known for so long as such a run-heavy team. The coaching staff, recognizing early on that there was little room to run on Miamisburg's defense, put the ball in the capable hands of quarterback Hayden Kotwica, and he performed pretty admirably, given the circumstances. His touchdown pass on the first drive out of halftime cut the Vikings' lead to 22-15, and it looked like Troy might be able to stay in the game. Unfortunately, Miamisburg answered that score about two minutes later, and the Trojans weren't able to put any more points on the board. Still, Kotwica passed for nearly 300 yards on the night, putting him close to 700 yards in just three games. Needless to say, he's going to put up numbers this season like Trojan fans haven't seen in a very long time.

(Sometime I'm going to get my hands on a copy of Troy's school records in football. They used to print them in the program each year, but stopped doing that for some unknown reason quite some time ago. Although I suppose it's technically possible they put them in there this year--I haven't bought one yet--but I'm not holding my breath.)

At any rate, there's no relief in sight for the Trojans just yet. Next week they return to the scene of their first (and thus far only) win of the season, Heidkamp Stadium in Huber Heights. Instead of the CJ Eagles, though, this time around they'll be facing the actual home team, the Wayne Warriors, last year's state runner-up in Division I and undefeated so far this year as well. I will mention, however, that although Wayne did defeat Troy 54-0 last year (I didn't attend), Troy did beat Wayne the last time the two teams met in Huber Heights--a 14-12 outcome in 2009. So we'll just keep our happy thoughts and hope for a similar outcome this time around, shall we?