Friday, October 14, 2016

Troy 35 Sidney 6

This win probably should have felt more satisfying than it actually did. To explain why, let's rewind to last year at this time. When Troy played at Sidney in 2015, the Trojans were coming off a stunning upset of the heavily favored, state-ranked Rams of Trotwood-Madison the week before. I didn't get to attend the game at Trotwood, so I was fired up when I got to Sidney, hoping the Trojans had learned how to put everything together and play some good, competitive football. Instead, I saw a good Sidney team take them apart to the tune of a 52-28 defeat. Given all that, you'd think that seeing them beat the Yellowjackets handily would feel like a little bit of payback, but it really didn't.

Primarily I'd say that's because Sidney has been decimated by injuries this year and is a mere shadow of last year's team. But it's also because Troy didn't play very well, at least on the offensive side of the ball. I could easily be mistaken about this, but it seemed like they were trying to work some different players into the mix early on, possibly because it was Senior Night, and things just never quite clicked. They had five turnovers (3 fumbles lost, 2 interceptions thrown), including a scoop-and-score on a bad snap in the game's waning moments that accounted for Sidney's only points.

But hey, they played well enough to turn this one lopsided by the time it was over, even if it took longer than maybe it should have for them to get there. Part of that was because the offense was persistent and kept playing hard even on an off night, and part of it was because the defense, on the other hand, played lights-out. Sidney's tailback, Isaiah Bowser, is one of the top backs in the conference, and came into the game with nearly 1,300 yards on the season. Troy held him to 51 yards on 26 carries, while at the same time forcing quarterback Dillon King into a 6 for 19 passing night, with four interceptions. Granted, those are the two positions where Sidney was hit hardest by injury, but Troy wasn't facing complete stiffs back there; they just made it look that way. So, yeah. A defensive performance like that can easily make up for an occasional off night for the offense.

There was one play that I wanted to make particular note of. On one of Troy's extra point attempts, the snap went high, and holder Jacob Adams had to go way up high to field it. Instead of trying to get back down into his crouch, he just bent over at the waist and put the ball down, where Jacob Anderson was able to kick it through. It's the second time this season I've seen him do it, the other (I think) being the Tipp game. It's just an impressive, heady play, and the kid's only a sophomore. So, props to him. Troy's kicking game overall has been a real strength for them this season, even though it kind of flies under the radar.

Next week the Trojans, now 7-1, travel to Greenville to take on the 3-5 Green Wave. I, alas, will not be traveling with them. There's one more regular season game on the schedule after that one, and you can rest assured that I'll certainly be attending my 26th consecutive Troy-Piqua game (dating back to 1992) on October 28. That game is shaping up to be for all the marbles in the GWOC North, just like the old days.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Troy 35 Tippecanoe 7

Welcome to the GWOC, boys.

This is Tipp's first year in the conference, coming over from the Central Buckeye Conference, upon which they had made a habit of feasting. In the past ten years, their lowest win total was 8. With all due respect to teams like Bellefontaine (who Troy played a hell of a game against earlier this year) and Springfield Shawnee (who Troy played in 2012 and 2013), the teams in the GWOC's North Division are, week in and week out, a little more competitive.

The main difference in the two leagues is the size of the schools. Troy has quite a bit larger student body than Tipp does, and hence more depth on the sidelines, and that really showed tonight. Troy looked like the better team in the first half, but Tipp hung in there, trailing only 14-7 at the break. In the second half, though, Tipp just couldn't keep up. The Trojans wore them down and pulled away with three unanswered scores in the second half.

This is a fun game, and I'm glad Tipp is in the conference now so it'll happen on a yearly basis. This was the first time the teams have played since 1985, which was before I was paying attention (I was eight). The two towns basically bleed into one another, so it's a natural rivalry. Troy got the best of it this year (and historically: the all-time record now stands at 21-2-2), but Tipp is a solid program, and I have no doubt that they'll have something to say about how the series goes forward.

With all that said, I was surprised by the (relatively) small size of the Tipp City crowd (which you can see in the second photo above). I would have thought that they would have had 31 years' worth of anticipation to see their guys have a chance to knock off the big boy on the block. Don't get me wrong; they brought a decent crowd (Troy's side looked, to me, to be filled in but not packed), but not what I expected. Maybe the threat of rain kept some people away. If so, too bad for them: it was an absolutely perfect night for a football game.

At any rate, now that the Red Devils have been duly introduced to their new conference, the Trojans, now 5-1/1-0, will travel next week to face a longtime conference foe, the Aviators of Vandalia Butler (4-2/1-0). I, alas, will not be there. My work schedule has me on the road next Friday. At the moment, the plan is to take in a game instead at my wife's alma mater, as the 5-1 Clyde Fliers host the 6-0 Edison Chargers. I'll be back on the Trojan beat the following week, when they return to Troy Memorial Stadium to take on the Sidney Yellowjackets.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Miamisburg 21 Troy 17

There are times--quite a few of them--when I wish I had access to some sort of wormhole or device that would let me go back in time and change whatever life decisions I would need to in order to be coaching high school football today. And then there are nights like this, when I watch my beloved Troy Trojans lose in a heartbreaking and controversial fashion, and then moments later I see Coach Burgbacher on the field being interviewed about the game, and I know he has to put on a positive face and say all the right things. After a game like this, I don't know if I could do it. Not five minutes after the final whistle, at least.

The controversy (those on the Troy side of the field would call it that, at least) came on two separate plays on the game's final drive. When the Trojans kicked a field goal to take a 17-14 lead with around two minutes left in the game, Miamisburg was out of timeouts. They needed big plays, and they needed them fast. They were making the plays they needed, but the clock kept rolling, and it looked like the Troy defense--stalwart all night--was going to hold them one last time. Then, on a tackle near midfield, a Troy defender was flagged for an illegal hit. Now, it looked like a perfectly fine hit to me, but it happened on the opposite side of the field, so it's totally possible that I didn't see it clearly. However, I will say that the game was a little chippy all night, with at least two occasions of Trojans being tackled by the head and their helmets being torn off without penalties being called. If you're going to let plays like that go, then I'd say that inside of a minute left in a tight game is not the time to start calling personal fouls. Then, on a play shortly thereafter (it may have been the next one), the Viking QB threw a pass toward the sideline, but Troy's defense managed the drag the defender down in bounds with fifteen seconds left. The official signaled for the clock to keep running, but then, inexplicably, signaled for it to stop. By the time another official signaled that it should indeed be running, Miamisburg's offense was already back at the line of scrimmage, where they clocked the ball to set themselves up for their scoring pass.

Now, credit to the Vikings, because their kids came up big and made the plays when they needed them. Maybe they still get into the endzone without those two plays going the way they did. Who knows? What I do know is that this was a hell of a high school football game for 47 minutes, but that last minute left a sour taste in my mouth as I left the stadium.

Now! Having made the long(ish) drive back to Columbus and using that time to mull over the entirety of the game, there were, overall, more positives than negatives. Miamisburg is a really good team. They've blown Troy out the past couple of seasons, and this year the Trojans were right there with them. The Vikings are known primarily for their offensive line, which has one member committed to Ohio State and considered the best in the nation, and another to the University of Cincinnati. And yet Troy's D really did a nice job against them. And last but not least, Troy's home stands were as full as I've seen them in a long, long time. It was fun to be part of a big home crowd again.

And really, it's hard to be disappointed for long. At the halfway point of the seasons, the Trojans find themselves at 4-1, after finishing last year 2-8. It's already been a fun year, and it's only half over (or maybe less--stay tuned). Now it's time for conference play, and it starts off with what should be a pretty cool matchup. The Tippecanoe Red Devils, also 4-1, invade Troy Memorial Stadium next Friday, the first time the two teams have played since 1985, which was before even I was paying attention (I was in third grade). Tipp is always solid, and I'm glad the Trojans have made it back to that point as well. I'm looking forward to this one.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Day(s) in Court

September has been a very busy month so far. To start with, we got the keys to our new apartment on Friday the 2nd. I'll probably write more about that whole experience at some point, but for now suffice it to say that this was not like our previous move, when we came to Worthington from Troy. That move was planned for in advance and we hired movers to take care of more or less the whole thing. This one...I wouldn't go so far as to call it an "impulse" move, but there was definitely less lead time, and thus the move itself was a little haphazard. We hired movers only for our large furniture; everything else, Brandi and I moved ourselves.

So that was physically exhausting and more than a little stressful, and it took up the entirety of that (long) weekend and the majority of the next. Sandwiched in between was our catalog deadline week at work. That's always my busiest time of each month, and this time around it was even moreso than usual. Normally a deadline week entails a two-day business trip to Toledo; this time, with everything else going on, I begged it down to just one day. Still, a one-day there-and-back makes for a long day, and presents its own issues.

Along with all of this, I received a notice in the mail a while back--late July? early August? I can't really remember--that I had been selected as a juror for the Franklin County Municipal Court for a two-week period beginning September 12.

This is the fourth time I've been called for jury service (which seems high to me, given how many people have never been called); the previous three were in much smaller counties (once in Wood, twice in Miami). In those counties, I was sent notice that my service may be required, and to call a number on a certain date to find out. Twice my service was not required and I did not have to report (I can't remember now if those were Common Pleas or Municipal Court); the third time (Miami County Common Pleas), I did have to report, and did in fact serve on the jury. That was in 2010.

Franklin County, which includes the state capital of Columbus, is a much different animal, and jury service works a little different here. There was no "call to see if we need you." The summons simply instructed me to report on September 12 for two weeks of jury service. And so that was what I did.

The first day was given over almost entirely to orientation. There was a questionnaire to fill out; the jury commissioner spoke; one of the judges came in and spoke; there was a video (maybe memory of Day 1 is already a little fuzzy). Mostly there were questions, and most of those questions concerned various ways the jurors hoped the two-week timeline might be circumvented. In case you ever find yourself in a jury pool for the Franklin County Municipal Court, let me save you and Mr. Shields some time: there aren't any. If you get called for jury service, you will be there for two weeks. The only exception is that, unless you're serving on a jury for a trial that is still going at the end of day on Thursday, you do not have to come in on Friday. You will notice, for example, that I'm writing this on a Thursday evening, and my jury service is over. We did not have to report last Friday, either.

Of course, when you tell anyone you're on jury duty, especially if you mention that you have to be there for two weeks, the most common response is something along the lines of, "Ooh, what kind of case is it?" So here's how it works. Franklin County Municipal Court is, from what we heard this week, the busiest court system in Ohio and one of the busiest in the country. So when they call you in as a juror, that doesn't mean you've been assigned to a trial. It means there are so many potential trials that could begin on a given day (they put the number on the board each morning; it was anywhere from the 50s to the 90s) that they just need a pool of potential jurors in case any trials actually happen. The overwhelming majority of cases, however, are settled before the need for a jury comes about.

All of that is a long way of saying that, in two weeks (eight days) of jury service, I did not end up on any trials. No one in our group (60+ people) did. Four times, a group of twenty was put on standby. I was called in the first one of those, on the very first day. Three of those (including mine) settled before we were called out of the jury room. One group (in which I was not included) did end up being called into the courtroom to begin the selection process, but that case then ended up settling as well before it went any further.

It's worth mentioning here that jurors are paid $15 per day they attend. That's a pittance, really, but let's do a little math. I think there were 63 jurors in our group, so that's $945 per day, which adds up to $7560 total to pay us all for eight days of not serving on juries. So it adds up. And we were assured that it was our presence and readiness to serve that helped so many cases to settle, which in turn keeps the judges and courts free, rather than tying them up and costing even more money.

(I hope I conveyed that in a way that makes sense. It made sense as it was explained, so if it doesn't here, please blame the translation.)

So. If I didn't serve on any juries, how did I pass two weeks on jury duty? I'm glad you asked. Tom Shields, the jury commissioner, told us all on the first day that he realized that jury duty was a major inconvenience, but that they tried to minimize that inconvenience as much as they could, and I found that to be the case. In the mornings, we had to report by 10:30, but could report as early as 8:00. Once we checked in, we were free to observe the goings-on in various courtrooms. That was an opportunity that I, personally, did not take advantage of. The jury room was set up for wireless Internet access; since I telecommute anyway, and since the company I work for does not pay for hours not worked during jury duty, I went in early, taking my laptop along, and worked until lunchtime. Although my setup was less than optimal (at home I have a monitor in addition to my laptop, which really helps me work faster and, probably, better) and the WiFi would get a little spotty as the morning wore on and more and more jurors added their devices to the network, it worked out fairly well.

We were given ninety minutes for lunch. As someone who eats slowly and only gets thirty minutes when I'm working, that was a luxury. Most days I went over to the cafeteria at the Common Pleas court building, which is surprisingly good, and ate there. A couple of times, though, they offered tours of other locations, which took place more or less during the lunch break. Last week I went with a group to tour the Ohio Supreme Court, and earlier this week we went to the Ohio Statehouse. After lunch was when we were most likely to be called for a trial, but they usually had a speaker lined up who would come in and give us a little background on different governmental or court departments. We heard from representatives of the clerk of courts and the county auditor, as well as from the county recorder himself. One afternoon I joined a group who got to sit in on some small claims cases and then hear from the magistrate. Another day Mr. Shields demonstrated the jury selection software (we got to see the actual selection of a group of jurors for, I think sometime in November) and talked about how the process has evolved. The court dockets cleared for the day and they released us anywhere from around 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. each day. Then today, after we were done, we had an opportunity to go downstairs with a group of sheriff's deputies and take a tour of the county jail. That was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

I'm not going to lie: when I first got the summons, I was pretty irritated, given that it was the fourth time I've been called. And when I realized it was for a two-week period, I nearly panicked, given everything else we had going on, in addition to my company's pay policy. But really, it turned out to be worthwhile. Would I have liked to serve on an actual jury while I was there? Well, sure. But it really was an interesting opportunity to get at least a small glimpse into the inner workings of the court, as well as a few other governmental agencies, an opportunity that most people aren't afforded. I was really struck by the jury office's determination to not waste our time, as well as how seriously everyone we came into contact with took their mandate to be fair and responsible with how their duties were carried out and how the public's money is spent.

Now. The one thing I wish I would have known going in? I'm actually not 100% sure this is supposed to be common knowledge, but what the hell--Mr. Shields volunteered the information without being asked and didn't say anything about keeping it close to the vest, and since I think it's useful, I'll put it out there. He told us that, once you get a summons for jury duty, you can call in and reschedule your service (I think it has to be done within three months) one time with no questions asked. All things considered, I would have preferred to move it back a couple of weeks or a month.

But hey, I got through it, and actually mostly enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong: I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to my regular routine. Working in the jury room in the mornings and then trying to keep up with my workload and make up some time in the evenings was definitely wearying. And don't get me started on the traffic trying to get downtown in the mornings. But I liked being downtown during the day, and of course I already mentioned the luxurious lunches.

Anyway. Getting the summons is never a wonderful feeling, but here, at least, really: jury duty, not so bad.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Troy 42 Fairborn 14

Another Friday night football game, another lightning delay. At least this one didn't cause the rest of the game to be postponed until the next day. The delay began at 7:12, just after Troy scored their first touchdown of the night. I didn't bring my rain gear (you'd think by now I would have learned to just keep it in my trunk at all times, just in case, but apparently I haven't), so I left the stadium and went back to my car. I listened to Marty Brennaman call the beginning of the Reds game, always a worthwhile endeavor, and tuned into my pal David Fong on Twitter to stay updated on when the game would resume. I headed back into the stadium at 8:15; the Trojans kicked off at 8:24, and the rest of the game went off without a hitch.

About the game itself, there isn't a whole lot to say. Fairborn, now 0-4, just isn't a very good team this year, and the Trojans had their way with them from beginning pretty much until the end. The Skyhawks didn't even get a first down until midway through the second quarter, and they had negative offensive yards in the first half. With the score 35-0 at halftime, this game marked the first time Troy had forced a running clock on an opponent, which is a nice change from having it forced upon them. Troy's starters played sparingly (if at all) in the second half. Give Fairborn credit, though: they never gave up, and their student section was in full voice until the final horn sounded. So that was pretty cool.

So the Trojans, now 4-0 on the season, got their first and probably only real breather of the season. Next week they'll face another test as the 3-1 Miamisburg Vikings invade Troy Memorial Stadium. And after that, things get really interesting, as GWOC North play begins the following week with an intriguing home matchup with the Tippecanoe Red Devils. As good as the Trojans have looked so far, it's time for them to tighten up their chinstraps and really show what they're made of. Should be fun.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Troy 41 Bellefontaine 36

What a game.

This was the one game on this year's schedule that I was looking forward to because it was somewhere I hadn't been before. Also, Bellefontaine is closer to Columbus than most places Troy plays, so that was a nice change for me. I didn't have to burn out of town the very minute I got off work at 5:00, and the ridiculous Columbus traffic snarls didn't really matter. I had plenty of time to get to the game well before kickoff.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me. Brandi and I moved into a new apartment last weekend, and actually, we're still in the process of moving. We're finishing that off tomorrow. It's been a really busy week at work; I traveled to Toledo yesterday for our catalog deadline, and I put in some extra hours over the course of the week. I had to make sure everything was finished, because I start two weeks of jury duty on Monday, and I'm not sure how much I'll be able to work during that time. So I've had plenty of tension in my life...and I could feel it all melt away as I got into the stadium and walked around the field to the visitors' stands.

And yet, with all of that said, as I watched Troy get absolutely torched by Bellefontaine's quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus as they fell behind 21-0 in the first half, I'd by lying if I said I didn't have some moments, all too common as I've followed the Trojans from Columbus over the past couple of seasons (in which they went 1-9 and 2-8), that I questioned why I keep doing this.

Fortunately, such moments are mostly fleeting. I'm an optimist at heart, and even after that dismal start, I was interested to see how the Trojans would respond. They did start to get it together a little bit as the second quarter wore on, but they nonetheless went into halftime facing a 28-7 deficit.


Troy looked like a completely different team in the second half. They received the kick and got their momentum rolling by driving for a score, cutting Bellefontaine's lead to 28-14. The real test, though, came on defense. Linebacker Shane Shoop came in to do yeoman's work in slowing down Lyburtus, and when they actually got a stop and then another score (28-20), that's when I started to feel like they had a shot at this one.

Then came the fourth quarter, which is when the game went insane. Troy's QB Hayden Kotwica busted off a long TD run on the very first play, and that tied the game. Bellefontaine turned the ball back over to the Trojans on their next drive, and Troy scored to take the lead, 35-28. There was still a ton of time left, but it was looking pretty good at that point. Even though the defense had tightened up, Lyburtus was just too good to be completely contained, though, and he was able to get another score with a minute and a half left. And no one was surprised when Bellefontaine decided to go for two. They got it. With 1:30 left, they led 36-35.

At that point it was already an incredible game, but it would have been such a heartbreaker as a Troy fan to see them come back from so far behind only to lose in that fashion. Happily, that was not to be. Kotwica hit tailback Josh Browder on a screen pass, and Browder--who had a coming out party as a really good back tonight--took it 50+ yards to the house. 41-36 Troy. They still had to play a minute of defense, and with the way the night had gone, it wasn't a sure thing, but they were able to hold on.

You just don't get games like this too often in high school football. It was incredible (and THAT is why I keep doing this). And as great as it was to see Troy get the win, you couldn't help but feel bad for the Bellefontaine kids, especially Lyburtus. He had a hell of a game--he almost managed to win the game by himself. I know he had to be crushed by the way it turned out. On my way out of the stadium, I joined a couple of Troy fans and a large contingent of Bellefontaine fans who waited to give their kids a hand on their way off the field.

So! The Trojans find themselves at 3-0, and who saw that coming? Admittedly, not me. Next week they go on the road again to take on the Fairborn Skyhawks (0-3). That's another "close" game from Columbus, so that's all good for me.

Oh, and one last thing I want to note. Because Brandi and I were busy with moving, I didn't get to go to last week's game, in which Troy hosted Cincinnati Northwest (and defeated them 31-14). However, thanks to Troy Community Radio, I was able to listen to the game. They did a great job on the play by play and I was really happy I got to listen since I couldn't be there, so I wanted to make sure I gave them a shout-out.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Troy 10 Trotwood-Madison 6

It's possible that there's a vast conspiracy afoot in the universe that is preventing me from seeing the Trojans defeat the Rams. On the day the two teams played last year, I was finishing up a work trip to Toledo and couldn't make it to Trotwood in time for the game. This year I did make the drive from Worthington to Troy for the game; Trotwood was leading the game by a score of 6-3 when it was halted due to lightning "in the area" (more on that momentarily). The second half was postponed until Saturday morning; I had to get back home and couldn't make it back.

So for two years in a row I've missed seeing my beloved Trojans upset a Trotwood team that was expected to roll over them. In fact, looking back, the last full game I saw between these two teams ended in a 72-6 defeat for Troy, the worst in their history, in 2013. That's a game I'd prefer to forget, to say the least.

Since I only saw the first half, there isn't a whole lot I can say about the game. What I can say is this: Troy already looks light years better than they did last year, particularly on defense. They made Trotwood look like nothing special. Now, it may turn out, as the season progresses, that the Rams, as a team, actually aren't anything special. It's possible. They do have some special players, though--tailback Ra'veion Hargrove rushed for over 3,000 yards last year as a sophomore. He didn't play in the game Troy won last year, which of course led many to label that game a "fluke." Although he did score Trotwood's lone touchdown this year (after the Trojans fumbled the ball to the Rams in the red zone), Troy's D held him in check, giving up just 75 yards on 18 carries. Offensively for the Trojans, much like last year, they had a hard time creating any room for the running backs, and although stellar quarterback Hayden Kotwica couldn't get a whole lot going through the air, either, this time his legs provided Troy's answers. He (unseen by me, of course) scored on a 21-yard run in the third quarter to give the Trojans the lead and the eventual win.

So! Like last year, the Trojans have opened the season with a big, not-entirely-expected win. Like last year, they follow it up by hosting Cincinnati Northwest (1-0) at Troy Memorial Stadium. Hopefully this year they can keep the winning ways going. I'm planning to be at the game next week, but there's a possibility those plans may fall through. Brandi and I get the keys to our new apartment next Friday, and although we're doing the bulk of our moving on Saturday, I'm keeping my eyes open to the fact that some snag may keep me in Columbus (in which case I'll likely be at the Worthington Kilbourne game instead).

Looking over my summary of last year's game against Northwest, it's kind of funny to remember that game's lightning delay, because the situation with this week's game was pretty similar. The OHSAA mandates that a game must be delayed anytime there's lightning "in the area." On this night, "in the area" actually meant "yeah, it's visible, but it's all to the south and east, past Troy even if it did somehow come this far north, and with no actual chance of striking anywhere near Troy Memorial Stadium." In a circumstance like this, it's more of a liability issue than a safety issue--I mean, if they want to get real about safety, the kids shouldn't be playing football in the first place, let alone in 90-degree heat with 90% humidity.

Okay, some hyperbole there. I'm a little peeved that I made the long drive from Columbus to Troy and back and only got to see half of what turned out to be a really good game, when the postponement didn't seem to be totally necessary. Of course, I also realize that most football game attendees don't drive 140+ miles roundtrip for the game, and a postponement isn't quite the inconvenience for everyone else that it is for me. They have to err on the side of caution; I get it. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to grouse about it when I miss half of the first game of the season, which I look forward to all offseason long.