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?

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