Saturday, September 21, 2013

Troy 21 Springfield 20

Over all the years I've been following Troy football all over the state of Ohio, there have been a number of games that have been disrupted by lightning, being delayed for long periods of time and occasionally even suspended and resumed the next day. This is the first time, though, that the game has been postponed in advance of gametime, falling victim to the threat of coming inclement weather--when I read the news on Facebook that the game had been postponed until today, the sun was still shining brightly outside my office window.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be the right call. Around 5:00, the rain rolled in, and it came down hard. It didn't storm too much here in Troy--I heard a few rumbles of thunder, but didn't see any lightning--but chatting with one of the game workers on our way into the stadium, he said there was definitely quite a bit of lightning last night in Springfield, and the game almost certainly would have been delayed or postponed anyway had they tried to play on Friday night. That being the case, it was great to head over to Springfield today and watch the game under fairly sunny conditions, rather than going last night and getting soaked in the downpour and having to go back again today anyway.

It looked early on like this game was going to turn into a shootout. Troy tailback Miles Hibbler went 79 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game, and then Springfield came right back and scored on the ensuing kickoff return. The teams traded scores again after that, making the score 14-12 Troy (Springfield missed their first extra point attempt, then failed on the two-point try on their second score) at the end of the first quarter. Then, when Troy's offense started having trouble moving the ball, it looked like it might be a replay of the CJ game, when they started off so hot and then had nothing but trouble for the rest of the game. That view was reinforced when Springfield scored on a long pass in the second quarter and converted the two-point attempt for a 20-14 lead.

Fortunately, the Trojans didn't experience the turnover problem they had in the CJ game, and the defense did a great job holding its own against an athletic Wildcat team. Troy drove down and scored just ten seconds before halftime to retake the lead, 21-20, which would surprisingly last throughout the second half and stand as the final score.

The Trojans were able to hold on for the win due to another episode of the Miles Hibbler show. After his 79-yarder in the first quarter, he had a hard time finding big chunks of running room, due in large part to the way Springfield was defending--on most plays, everyone wearing blue was within seven yards of the line of scrimmage, loading up to keep Miles from breaking loose. That kept him from using his speed to get to the outside and gain a lot of yards at once, but he had plenty of moves and power to keep the ball moving a little bit at a time. Never was that more important than in the fourth quarter, when the Trojans used him to pound the ball and run the clock to keep it out of Springfield's hands. You could see from the stands that he was worn out, but he sucked it up and carried the load when his team needed him. His last carry, when he gained eight or nine yards for a first down to put the game away, was a thing of absolute beauty.

Of course, one of his biggest plays of the night wasn't on offense, but on defense on Springfield's previous drive. The Wildcats had gotten the ball with about three minutes left in the game, and they marched down into the red zone. When quarterback Davonte James--who showed off an impressive arm all game long--chucked a pass into the endzone with a minute and a half left, Hibbler--who played offense exclusively the past two weeks, until this crucial series--got in front of the receiver and laid out for a crucial interception. Then he went back on offense and iced the game for the Trojans.

Like last year, when Troy was the only team Springfield defeated all year, the Wildcats were much more formidable than their record would indicate. And with the struggles they faced in their first two games, at this point any win is a good win for the Trojans. Now standing at 2-2, they'll face another stiff test next week when they return home to host 3-1 Miamisburg. The Vikings defeated the Trojans 7-6 last year (in a game spread over two days due to lightning on Friday night), so hopefully Troy will be able to avenge that loss as well.

No comments: