A modest win streak is all Matt Burgbacher and his young Troy team needed to build confidence, momentum and the community’s appreciation. Friday, against Northwest, they may have gotten all three.
By Greg Billing
Troy – Some of the loudest cheers at Memorial Stadium came after the Troy Trojans football game Friday night.
And there were plenty of reasons for the Trojans’ fans packing the home-side bleachers to raise a ruckus during Troy’s 31-14 win over Cincinnati Northwest in a non-conference game.
Among them, there was junior Sam Coleman’s 65-yard touchdown catch and run. Fellow junior Christian Nation earned accolades after shutting down a Northwest drive by blowing up a Northwest hand-off in highlight reel fashion. And then there was the announcement of Trotwood-Madison beating Piqua.
But the biggest cheers awaited the players as they ran off the field. Students and cheerleaders formed a tunnel leading to the locker room for the players to run through. It was a moment rarely seen at Memorial Stadium in recent seasons.
And it wasn’t just the players excited to experience tunnel vision. Troy coach Matt Burgbacher – still needed on the field for post-game interviews – sprinted through the tunnel before returning to the field.
“The expression on our kids’ faces, that’s what matters. They’re having fun. The student body is having fun,” Burgbacher said. “This is what high school football does for a community, for a school, everything. (The students are) not leaving. This is awesome.”
Senior defensive back and kicker Jacob Anderson agreed.
After Friday’s win, Anderson and the seniors celebrated a first for their class.
“It’s the first time in my Troy career that we’ve enjoyed a winning streak,” Anderson said of beating Trotwood last week and now Northwest. “This town deserves it. These fans deserve it.”
Troy started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2008. The two-game winning streak is the Trojans’ first since beating Xenia and Springfield on Sept. 21 and Sept. 27 in 2013.
More important is how they did it.
Troy led Northwest 19-7 entering the fourth quarter in Cincinnati last season. They lost 28-26.
That wasn’t lost on the Trojans’ on Friday. Troy led 14-0 in the first quarter after its first two drives. It would have been three straight touchdowns had Troy not lost a fumble on Northwest’s 1-yard line.
Still, Troy forced Northwest to punt when adversity appeared again. Northwest’s punt hit a Troy player and the Knights recovered. Three plays later, Northwest’s Kameron Tarpley juked three Troy defenders in the backfield and sprinted down the Troy sideline for an 83-yard score.
Just like that – and just like 2015 – Troy found itself in a fight leading 14-7.
“At halftime we fell apart (last season),” Anderson said. “You don’t see that with this team. We make adjustments and we know how to stick together.”
Troy – which took a 21-14 lead into halftime – opened the third quarter with a 10-play, 65-yard drive capped by senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica’s two-yard run. The drive was kept alive by junior Rase Darrow’s fumble recovery.
Troy junior John Wehrkamp halted Northwest’s best chance to score in the second half by recovering a fumble on Troy’s 6-yard line midway through the third quarter.
“From what I saw on film I knew they would come with energy,” Northwest first-year coach Lee Johnson said. “I knew they would play with intensity and we had to match that. We stacked up well with them athletic-wise and the scheme we could run against them. Hey, it came down to (Troy) playing with effort and we relaxed at times. We came off the bus a little flat and we had to play catch-up all night.
“I saw who they beat last week. I’ve been at Cincinnati long enough to know what Trotwood-Madison is. I know those son of a guns compete and Troy matched their intensity. They were flying around the field and making plays. I knew what we was going to get into.”
Unofficially, Kotwica completed 15-of-22 passes for 255 yards. His biggest strike went to Coleman on Troy’s second drive. When Coleman hauled in the pass at the Northwest 30-yard line there wasn’t another player around him for 10 yards.
“When the ball’s in the air all I have to do is catch it when there’s great blocking and a great throw like that,” Coleman said. “It was crazy. That’s how coach drew it up.”
Just like watching the spiral into his hands, Coleman said this year’s team is equally focused. He said the team was leery of last year’s start that saw Troy win its first game then drop its next five.
“I just think we’re ready this year,” Coleman said. “Today was good juice with everyone.”
The Trojans had added attention this week after stunning Trotwood in the season opener. Troy again delivered another impressive performance.
“This was our statement game,” Burgbacher said. “Everybody was wondering is Troy good or was Trotwood not as good? I think we came out and made the statement we’re a pretty good football team. We’re not a great team yet. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement. That’s encouraging as a coach. We’ve got a long way to go but it’s nice being 2-0.”
Up next for Troy is a road game at Bellefontaine. The Chieftains lost to Wapakoneta 24-21 in Week 1 and beat Sidney 34-28 on Friday.
“We feel great, but it’s always on to the next thing,” Anderson said. “We’re going to stay confident and focused and we’re going to keep moving on.”