An old post-season nemesis cools Tipp’s hot streak, spoiling the Red Devils’ undefeated start with a sobering loss in Trotwood.
By Greg Billing
Trotwood – The demise of the Trotwood-Madison Rams was greatly exaggerated following a stunning Week 1 loss to Troy.
And likewise, don’t count out the Tippecanoe Red Devils after Friday night’s disappointing 43-6 loss to Trotwood.
The meeting between the Greater Western Ohio Conference members was an early season showdown between two of the area’s top teams in Division III. The game took on added importance with both teams also in Region 12, meaning the winner grabbed key computer points that help determine playoff teams.
On Friday night that was a Trotwood team that looked every part of the juggernaut that has reached the state semifinals for six consecutive seasons.
Tipp ran into that postseason buzz saw twice in the last three seasons, both times in D-III. In 2013, Tipp lost 25-7 in the regional final. In 2015, Tipp lost 33-19 in the regional semifinals.
Friday night’s meeting – which started 90 minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff due to lightning in the area – was close until critical turnovers did in the Red Devils to start the second half.
Tipp, trailing 8-6 at halftime, received the second half kickoff. But the Red Devils fumbled it away on the second play when the Rams blew up a hand off attempt in the backfield. Four plays later junior Will McDaniel – getting the bulk of the carries with 3,000-yard rusher Raveion Hargrove resting a bruised thigh – powered in from 2-yards out for the 16-6 lead.
Tipp bobbled the ensuing kickoff to pin them on their own 12-yard line. Two plays later senior Devon Smith recovered a fumble in the Tipp end zone after the Rams’ defense blew up another play in the backfield.
In a span of 2:15, the Red Devils went from trailing by two points to 17.
“Our heads just went down. We didn’t overcome adversity for sure,” Tipp coach Joel Derge said.
“That defense is tough. They shut us down.”
They’re not alone.
Trotwood’s defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since Piqua scored in the first quarter in Week 2. That’s a TD shutout streak of 11 straight quarters.
But it nearly ended in the first quarter Friday. Twice.
On the Red Devils’ first possession – which started on its own 3-yard line – they drove to the Rams’ 33. Tipp turned it over on downs after coming up two yard short on fourth-and-7.
Tipp recovered a fumble six plays later near midfield and drove to the Rams’ 15. They settled for junior Caiden Smith’s 31-yard field goal – and the 3-0 lead – to start the second quarter.
The Red Devils set themselves up with great field position again midway through the second quarter when junior Justin Everette recovered a fumbled punt return on the Rams’ 20. Tipp couldn’t get a first down and settled again for another field goal, this one a 36-yarder from Smith.
Instead of leading 14-0, the Red Devils held a 6-0 advantage.
“It’s tough. I thought we played hard,” Derge said. “I thought we played a really good first half. We came out running the same kind of plays in the second half. We moved the ball on them a little bit and they moved the ball on us a little bit more.”
Unofficially, Tipp finished with 199 yards of offense. Trotwood had 300 yards.
Tipp senior Quenten Williams led the team with 69 yards on nine carries. During on stretch he had consecutive runs of 14, 17 and 20 yards.
“Quenten Williams ran really hard. I’m proud of the way he played,” Derge said. “I’ve never seen him run so hard. Just basically trying to spread the balls around. He was breaking tackles so we wanted to keep feeding him the ball.”
Trotwood focused on shutting down junior Cole Barhorst, Tipp’s leading rusher with 242 yards and 212 in his last two games. He was held to 44 on 10 carries Friday.
Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said he replaced some of his bigger but not as athletic defensive players in the second half with smaller and faster linemen and linebackers to create a speed rush. Graham said in the first half the Rams got caught looking into Tipp’s backfield wanting to make a play rather than players sticking to their assignments.
“When playing a team like Tippecanoe, they’re gonna focus on what they do well – they’re gonna run the ball well and block well,” he said. “Our guys did not understand you gotta keep gap integrity and have to read your keys. It kinda caught them in the first half cause they were looking in the backfield.”
Trotwood responded with 29 points in the third quarter, including a 50-yard touchdown pass from Markell Stephens-Peppers to Jamar Johnson and Darius Wortham’s 45-yard interception return.
Some of the best speed of the game came with 4:23 left in the fourth. McDaniel took a hand off up the middle from his own 20, cut right and angled toward the corner of the end zone. Tipp senior Cade Rogers gave chase and – in a last-ditch effort – dove at McDaniel’s legs to take him down at the 1-yard line for a 79-yard gain. Trotwood scored one play later, but Rogers’ never give up effort can serve as inspiration for the Red Devils.
“Cade Rogers is one of the guys on the team that’s never had a bad practice. I didn’t quite see what happened but I know he didn’t give up. He’s such a great kid,” Derge said.
Added Graham: “I love that kid tracking him down. (Rogers) gave his team one more chance. I give him all the respect in the world. That’s fun to watch. That’s high school football. … Just give me another chance to defend.”
Rogers and his teammates give chase at another win next Friday when Tipp hosts winless Fairborn, a team that lost 42-14 to Troy.
“We have to overcome it,” Derge said, referring to Tipp’s second-half struggles. “We play a good Fairborn team next Friday and we have to be able to overcome what happened tonight. I told the team we got better this week even though the score doesn’t show it. We had four good days of practice.”