It was clear going into this game that it would be a stern test for Troy, as Middletown looks to be one of the best teams in the state. The Middies also won 38-7 last year over a pretty good Troy team that finished 8-3 and made the playoffs. With both teams bringing back significant portions of their teams from last year, this had the makings of a potential classic.
It looked good for the Trojans early on. They stopped Middletown's first drive, then marched down the field themselves to take a 7-0 lead. Then they recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and had a chance to go up by a couple of scores. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. Troy's offense ended up getting stuffed on a fourth-and-one play; Middletown ran for 69 yards on the next play, taking the ball deep into Trojan territory and setting up their own first score.
That score (7-6 in Troy's favor) would hold until halftime. In the second half, the Middies barely ran any offensive plays other than the quarterback keeper and the fullback dive. With the heat and the number of Trojan linemen playing both ways, though, those plays were quite effective. Troy kept them from busting any long runs, but they marched down the field and wore down the defense, keeping the Trojan offense off the field at the same time.
On one hand, it was an impressive performance for the Trojans to hang tough with the talented Middies and make the outcome go down to the last play of the game. On the other hand, the game was marred by costly penalties and turnovers by both sides, as well as some general craziness. At one point toward the end of the first half, a Middletown drive was extended by a pass interference call on fourth and long, even though Middletown's quarterback had sailed the pass far beyond the endzone, clearly uncatchable. Their scoring chance ended, though, when Troy blocked a field goal; when Trojan defender Fred Whitson picked up the ball and ran it back for a TD, however, the Trojans were flagged for having too many men on the field, negating the score and ending the half. On the night, Troy was flagged for nine penalties, many of which came at really unfortunate times.
On a sidenote...this being Troy's home opener, it was awesome being back at Troy Memorial Stadium, even given the night's heat. Still, it would be nice if there was a director of gameday operations (or something) to improve the experience of being there. Here are a few things I noticed that could use some attention:
* On my way into the stadium, I passed one guy selling tickets for the 50/50 raffle. At the time, I was focused on getting my entry ticket and my game program, so I passed him by with the intention of buying tickets inside the stadium instead. I didn't find anyone selling tickets inside, though, neither underneath the stadium or in the bleachers. I'm not saying there wasn't anyone selling them in there, but if they were there, they sure were hard to find.
* As I came into the stadium, there were a couple of girls sitting at a table underneath a sign that said "Alumni Association." On the table were stacks of booklets that seemed as if they were for sale. There was nothing to indicate what the booklets were, though, or how much they cost.
* When the stadium was renovated a few years ago, a dedicated space was set aside for a Trojan Spirit Store where you could buy hats, shirts, and all kinds of stuff with the Trojan logo emblazoned on it. The merchandise selection has been declining for a while, though, and tonight the store wasn't even open.
* Many years ago, the game program used to list Troy football's school records. That information has long since disappeared, and it has always driven me crazy. I always loved looking over that stuff. If I can go on a tangent to this tangent, even if there isn't room for it in the program, it wouldn't be too hard to list the info on a Trojan football or athletics website, along with all the numbers Troy has retired throughout their history.
* The referee has a microphone that ostensibly allows him to announce penalties and other info from the field. The sound quality wasn't very good, though. The volume was too low to hear over the crowd noise, and sometimes there was some pretty heavy interference. I don't know if there's anything to be done about that sort of thing; I'm glad they have it, but it seemed mostly useless tonight.
Anyway, it was a tough loss for the Trojans, but the good news is that Middletown was definitely the toughest team they'll see this season. They get a chance to get back on their feet next Friday when they travel to take on the Fairborn Skyhawks (1-1).