A nail-biting win and a gut-wrenching touchdown with eight seconds left sent previously unbeaten Troy to its first defeat…at the hands of Miamisburg.
By Greg Billing
Troy – Should Urban Meyer call Miamisburg High School’s football coach to check on prized recruit Josh Myers, don’t be surprised if he asks Steve Channell if there are some Troy Trojans worthy of his attention, too.
Okay, that might be use of poetic license. But there’s no embellishing this – despite falling to the Vikings on a gut-wrenching, last-second touchdown Friday night, the Trojans entrenched themselves as contenders in the Division II, Region 8 playoffs.
A year removed from a 43-15 loss to Miamisburg – and a disappointing 2-8 season – Troy came within eight seconds of knocking off Miamisburg on Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium. Tyler Johnson’s 19-yard touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone handed Troy its first loss, 21-17.
The loss knocked the Trojans (4-1) from the ranks of the undefeated. But Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said it won’t keep them down, especially not with Miami County rival Tippecanoe looming next Friday at Memorial Stadium.
“I was so proud of our kids. That’s what high school football is all about,” Burgbacher said. “Our kids left it all on the field. Their kids left it all on the field. You can’t ask for anything more. We came out on the short end but we learned a lot. We’re going to rebound from this and we’re going to be okay.”
Troy senior Jacob Anderson booted a 19-yard field goal with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter to give the Trojans a 17-14 lead. The kick capped a 16-play, 85-yard drive that started with 10:34 to play. The drive reached Miamisburg’s 10-yard line and three plays later, Troy faced a fourth-and-2 on the Vikings’ 2-yard line.
Burgbacher didn’t hesitate to send out the field goal unit. Miamisburg’s Channel said he would have done the same.
“When our coaches (in the booth) said we’re on the 2-yard line we knew we were going for the field goal,” Burgbacher said. “I have great confidence in our field goal team. You take the lead with how our defense was playing and four minutes on the clock. … They just made one more play than we did.”
Added Channel: “I would have kicked the field goal. I understand the football mentality about going for it. But if you don’t get it and then you go to overtime … I would take the points and force us to drive the length of the field. I think it was the right thing.”
Troy’s kickoff landed in the end zone, starting Miamisburg’s drive on its own 20-yard line with 4:05 left. After a short run, a short pass and an incompletion the Vikings faced 4th-and-5 on their own 25. Sophomore quarterback Tate Vongsy found the junior speedster Johnson for a 10-yard gain. Miamisburg moved into Troy territory on a 5-yard pass and ensuing 15-yard personal foul on Troy. Another completion moved the Vikings to the Trojans’ 19 with 16 seconds left.
Vongsy then hit Johnson in the back corner for the game winner.
“I don’t think I’m going to realize what just happened until watching film in the morning,” said Johnson, who hauled in six passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. “My quarterback told me to go out and beat him. This is it.”
Troy and Miamisburg (4-1) entered the game as two of the top teams in D-II, Region 8. They left the same way. Troy – ranked No. 5 in the D-II state football poll – entered leading the Region 8 computer points that determine the playoff teams. Miamisburg was No. 8. The top eight teams qualify for the postseason.
“One play and one game will not define who we are. We’ll be back,” Burgbacher said. “This team showed a lot of positives tonight. We have to fix those little things and we’ll do that.”
One of those things was turnovers. Troy threw an interception into the end zone from the Miamisburg 13-yard line to start the second quarter. The Trojans also lost a fumble near midfield midway through the third.
Miamisburg boasts a pair of highly-touted Division I recruits on its offensive line. Myers, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound right guard, committed to play for Ohio State. He’s ranked by some as the top player in the state and top-10 in the nation. Senior Cody Lamb, a 6-4, 265-pound left tackle, committed to Cincinnati.
But it was Troy that won the ground game with 212 yards rushing to 139 for Miamisburg. That’s 104 yards under the Vikings’ average. Troy also led in total yards 418 to 303.
“I thought our defense stepped up all night,” Burgbacher said. “They played awesome.”
Senior inside linebacker Mitchell Murray, senior outside linebacker Will Brumfield and sophomore strong safety Sam Jackson led the defense with nine tackle each.
Offensively, Troy senior running back Josh Browder picked up a huge chunk of those rushing yards on one play. He took a counter hand off up the middle through a huge hole and sprinted 75 yards for Troy’s first score, tying the game 7-7 with 1:46 left before halftime. He finished with 170 yards on 19 carries.
Troy’s offense struck again as time expired for the 14-7 halftime lead. The Trojans drove 70 yards in 36 seconds, capped when senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica’s 33-yard Hail Mary pass found senior Zion Taylor in stride in the end zone. The pass just eluded the fingertips of a leaping Miamisburg defender and settled into Taylor’s hands as he raced behind him.
The TD was set up by Browder’s 24-yard run to the 33. More important, he got out of bounds with :01 left on the clock.
Troy’s first-half effort forced the Vikings to have a heart-to-heart talk at halftime in the locker room.
“We realized we had to step it up on both sides of the ball if we wanted to even come close to pulling it out,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we were ready for (Troy) to get after it like they did. They played with heart. That’s a mental thing for us. We need to play with a little more heart out there.”
Miamisburg had won the past four meetings, including the last two by scores of 43-15 in 2015 and 45-14 in 2014. If they underestimated the Trojans, they won’t do it again should they meet in the postseason.
“We knew this game was going to be a gauge for us. I loved what I saw,” Burgbacher said. “We’re not there yet, but with how far this team has come. Last year they blew us off the field in the first quarter. And I thought this year’s team was better than last year’s team. … I like where we are right now as a program.”
After watching film Saturday morning, Troy gets to work on its next opponent – the Tippecanoe Red Devils. The team a short drive up County Road 25-A visits as the Miami County rivals open Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play.
“We’re going to sulk on this tonight,” Burgbacher said. “Then we’re going to prepare for Tipp. We have to rebound quick. … It stinks losing in the last seconds of the game, but I can’t complain. I will never complain about the effort our kids gave. … I can’t leave disappointed.”