Before I talk about the game itself, an aside on high school football stadiums.
Troy Memorial Stadium was built in 1949. While it's undergone significant renovations since then, the core structure remains. With Vandalia getting a new stadium this year, Troy is now the one school in the GWOC North (until Greenville rejoins in 2012) without a stadium that was built in the past few years. The funny thing about that is that it's still the best out of all of them, in my (possibly biased) opinion. It's the largest, with a capacity of 10,000 (the home and visitor sides being of equal size); each side has concessions and restroom facilities located conveniently right under the bleachers; and there's ample parking (free) and the postgame traffic flow is pretty reasonable. Sure, there's the stigma of still being saddled with a natural grass playing surface (gasp!), but while that may matter to the powers-that-be who determine sites for playoff games, I personally prefer the grass. Sloppy games in the mud are fun every now and then, am I right?
The reason I bring this up is because, as I mentioned, Vandalia's stadium is new this year, and this was my first chance to see it. There are positives and negatives. First off, they tore out the old field and bleachers and rebuilt in the same location, which I've always liked. It abuts a neighborhood, with several houses having backyards that look directly onto the field from the north endzone. I've noticed over the years that several of those houses host large gatherings complete with small fires on game nights, which I think is totally awesome. The new FieldTurf looks fantastic, and the new bleachers (on the visitors' side, at least; I can't speak for the home side) are a vast improvement, for no other reason than that they're actually raised high enough that you can see the action on the field over the players on the sideline. Being able to see the game is definitely a nice touch, even for people from out of town (are you listening, Beavercreek?). I started the night just a few rows up, which was fine, then moved up near the top after halftime. While my view of the scoreboard was obstructed from there by one of the poles for the stadium lighting, the view of the game was phenomenal.
So my initial impressions of the new place were positive, but as the night wore on I realized it still leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, there have never been locker rooms at the stadium proper, and they didn't bother to rectify that, meaning that the players have to trek all the way over to the high school to reach the locker rooms. Obviously that doesn't affect the spectators, but I imagine (and could offer evidence from at least one former Trojan) that the players aren't too thrilled with the arrangement. Also, there are no loudspeakers on the visitors' side, meaning that sometimes you can hear what's coming over the PA system and sometimes you can't. Finally, there are no concessions or permanent restroom facilities on the visitors' side, meaning you have to cross to the home side and hope for the best. On this night, I stood in the concessions line for almost the whole of halftime and came away empty-handed because I didn't want to miss any of the second half. The concessions situation may be adequate when there's a smaller crowd, but tonight was Vandalia's homecoming and Troy essentially filled their side of the stadium, and one concession stand just wasn't enough. I think it'd be a simple enough matter to set up a temporary one on the visitors' side for large crowds, but if they do have that contingency plan it obviously wasn't in place for tonight.
What really matters, of course, is the action on the field, and Vandalia found themselves lacking in that area as well. They did manage to score, though, something that half of Troy's opponents this season haven't been able to say, and they did so on their opening drive, putting Troy behind for the first time since the Middletown game. After that, though, the Trojan defense returned to form and put the clamps on the Aviators, keeping them from scoring for the rest of the game and taking the ball away on a number of occasions. One of those was a beautiful one-handed interception by Marcus Foster as he went out of bounds at the ten-yard line just before halftime, and the other was made by Ian Nadolny in the endzone. Foster also had a pair of TDs on offense, along with 75 rushing yards and 116 receiving yards.
One last thing: one member of Troy's student section had a sign that read "We Are the Purple People Eaters" (purple is Vandalia's primary team color). He would carry it back and forth in front of the visitors' bleachers each time Troy scored, which got a pretty good reaction from the crowd. On my way out of the stadium after the game, I was behind him as he held this sign up to the Vandalia players as they left the field to begin the long trek back to the high school and the locker room. Most ignored him, but one had to be physically restrained by a teammate from going after him. Probably not the smartest move by either side, but nothing came of it. Kids will be kids.