Troy’s ground game ran wild in their first game with Tippecanoe in 31 years…and one the Red Devils won’t soon forget.
Troy – The renewed rivalry between the Troy and Tippecanoe high school football teams doesn’t have a catchy nickname just yet.
The I-75 Series? The Battle of 25-A?
Both of those roads, after all, connect the Miami County communities known for their tradition-rich football programs. But despite their close proximity, Friday night at Troy Memorial Stadium marked the first time in 31 seasons that both teams met on the football field.
The friendly rivalry wasn’t without some trash talking during the week. And Troy junior defensive tackle Christian Nation kept the smack talk going during the game in the form of hard hits. After tackling his friend and Tipp junior running back Cole Barhorst, Nation delivered another shot.
“(I told him) welcome to the GWOC,” Nation said following Troy’s resounding 35-7 victory over Tipp in the Red Devils’ first-ever game in the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American North Division.
Tipp and Troy last played in 1984 and 1985, both Trojans victories. Prior to that, the programs had not played since 1946.
Despite that lengthy delay in on-field action, the programs still shared recent history. Troy coach Matt Burgbacher is a 1995 Tippecanoe High School graduate. His dad Charlie, now the defensive coordinator at Troy, coached the Red Devils to some of their greatest seasons and won 189 games in 26 seasons starting in 1989.
And on Friday, those two tradition-rich programs collided – just like Nation and Barhorst.
Troy’s defense bottled up Tipp’s four-headed rushing attack of quarterback Aaron Hughes, running backs Nyles Anderson, Quenten Williams and Barhorst to an unofficial 125 yards. That’s about 150 yards under the Red Devils’ average.
Still, the Red Devils trailed just 14-7 at halftime when Hughes hit Williams for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left in the second quarter.
But thoughts of their first victory over Troy since 1946 evaporated when Troy senior safety Jake Anderson stepped in front of a Tipp pass on Troy’s 25-yard line. Two plays later, Troy senior Josh Browder broke a tackle at the Tipp 40, stepped out of another tackle attempt and sprinted 50 yards for the game-breaking score. Troy led 21-7.
“It was wild. I just followed my guard and followed the play and broke away,” said Browder, who finished with 161 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. “They opened up some really good holes and did a great job.”
“He’s pretty good. Pretty darn good,” Tipp coach Joel Derge said of Browder. “He’s got good vision and that’ something that can’t be taught. He’s got a great offensive line to run behind. We thought we had him the backfield a few times, he cuts back and it’s a 30, 40-yard gain. He’s a good player.”
Troy senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica added 74 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. Well, and a half.
Kotwica’s 5-yard run barely a minute into the second quarter put Troy up 7-0. After forcing a Tipp punt, Troy drove to the Tipp 1-yard line when Kotwica took the snap and placed the ball in Browder’s hands. Kotwica tried to pull it back after reading the defense, but Browder wasn’t giving it up. Both Kotwica and Browder appeared to be holding the ball as they crossed the goal line before Browder wrestled it away in the end zone.
“I just snatched if from him,” Browder said with a smile. “I wasn’t letting him take that one.”
Kotwica continued to share the ball in the second half. He threw a dart past a Tipp defensive back to hit junior receiver Matt McGillivary in stride for a 31-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter. Kotwica capped the scoring with a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior Zion Taylor midway through the fourth. Kotwica completed 7-of-8 passes for 137 yards and two scores.
While Troy’s offense was scoring on five of its seven drives (not counting running out the clock on the Red Devils’ 15-yard line to end the game), Tipp was wearing down late in the game. The Red Devils had no less than five starters playing both ways. Troy had zero.
“I noticed toward the end they were keeping their heads down and breathing heavy,” said senior linebacker Michael Murray, who prior to the game was named homecoming king.
“We’re having fun. Last year we always had the running clock on us. This year we’re putting up points on people and not letting them score.”
Barhorst led Tipp with 53 yards rushing. He entered Friday averaging 144.
“We set three goals: run the ball, stop the run and solid special teams,” Derge said. “We were doing those things in the first half. We struggled to do it in the second half. We were giving up big plays defensively. It’s hard to come back from two or three scores when you can’t run the football.
“It was a lot like the Trotwood game where we were down by a score at the half (and lost 43-6 in Week 4). In the third quarter it slipped away form our hands. The whole program has to change. We have to get better. The players have to get better. Our coaches have to do better. I have to do better. … This is a different environment for the kids, for sure.”
Derge reminded his team that the Red Devils lost in Week 6 of last season, too. The team responded with four straight wins to win its division of the Central Buckeye Conference. He challenged his team to do that again this season.
“I know it’s a different league, of course. But we can look back and say it’s been done before,” Derge said. “They didn’t feel any pressure (playing their first GWOC game). We just got beat by a team more physical than us tonight. They came off the ball and were able to run the ball at will.”
After Friday’s loss, it’s been 77 years since Tipp has held bragging rights over Troy, dating back to a victory in 1939. The Trojans – who lead the series 21-2-2 – said that fact wasn’t lost on them.
“It’s our first time playing so we wanted to show them what the GWOC is about,” Browder said. “I thought there was a lot of pressure with them being in the GWOC. We wanted to introduce them to the GWOC and let them know how good we are.”
The Burgbachers, meanwhile, need no such introductions in Tipp City. Charlie still lives there and Matt, of course, visits often. The younger Burgbacher said neither he nor his dad will have to keep a low profile in the town for the next couple weeks.
“This game is over and now we can move on,” Matt said. “We’ll be rooting for Tipp. Personally, I check the Fort Loramie score and then I’ll check the Tipp score (on Saturday morning). Joel should be proud. His kids played hard. … This is a great event for both communities. We’re friends off the field. It’s the start of something special between the two communities. There’s no bad blood. Who doesn’t like rivalry games?”
Added Derge: “I love those guys over there. We’ve been best friends for three or four years now. I root for them to go 9-1 every year, losing to us of course. I’m rooting for them in the Division II playoffs. We just wanted to win tonight and it didn’t happen.”
At least this time for Tippecanoe, they don’t have to wait another 31 years for another shot at Troy.