Offense…defense…Troy used the total package to continue their impressive resurgence at the expense of Vandalia Butler.
Vandalia – Had he been wearing a purple jersey, Sam Jackson would have ranked among Butler’s top receivers Friday night. Jackson caught three passes from Vandalia-Butler quarterback Mason Motter for about 80 yards and came within three feet of scoring a touchdown. So what’s the problem? Jackson plays for Troy.
The Trojans’ sophomore highlighted a stout defensive effort with his first three interceptions this season. Troy capitalized on all three with touchdowns in the 49-19 victory in Vandalia on Friday night. Jackson nearly scored himself. After picking off his second pass, Jackson sprinted down the Trojans’ sideline and collided with a couple Aviators’ defenders near the goal line. Officials ruled him out at the 1-yard line.
“I think I got it, but it’s whatever,” Jackson said, smiling at coming so close to scoring.
Don’t expect Jackson to lobby Troy coach Matt Burgbacher for playing time at wide receiver next week. The Trojans are sure-handed at that spot. Six different receivers hauled in passes from senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica, who was slinging the ball around Butler’s stadium completing 18-of-36 passes for (an unofficial) 267 yards. Three different receivers scored on touchdowns passes.
And while the offense was doing its job, the defense was holding the Aviators in check – sans one three minute stretch in the third quarter when Butler pulled to 28-19 with a pair of quick scores. The Troy defense held Butler running back Logan Flatt to 92 yards rushing on 13 carries. Flatt averaged 113 yards entering Friday.
“I thought our defense played great against a good offensive team like that,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “They played hard. They faced some adversity when it got to 28-19. But our kids made plays and that’s all you can ask.”
Troy’s first challenge came three minutes into the game. Butler’s Trey Sanders caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Motter with 8:53 left in the first quarter. It capped an eight-play drive that covered 61 yards.
The Trojans responded with an 11-play, 79-yard drive ending with Kotwica’s first touchdown pass, a 14-yard strike to sophomore Kobe Feltner. Troy senior running back Josh Browder added two touchdowns on short runs (3-yards, 1-yard) for the 21-7 halftime lead. Both of Browder’s scores were set up by Jackson’s interceptions.
“Give credit to the coaches. They put me in the right place at the right time,” Jackson said. “I want to give a lot of credit to our defensive line and linebackers. They got a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the running back. That really helped us out and I really appreciate that.”
Troy’s first drive of the second half ended with another touchdown – this one a Kotwica six-yard run – and the 28-7 lead. The highlight of the drive was a 42-yard pass to Hayden Jackson that took Troy to the Butler 20-yard line.
The Aviators rallied with those two quick scores. The first was an 18-yard touchdown pass from Motter to Sanders. The second was Flatt’s biggest run of the game. It looked like Troy’s defense had him stopped for a short gain, but Flatt juked defenders with a stop-and-go move and sprinted 49 yards for the touchdown.
Troy’s special teams blocked both extra points to keep the Trojans up by two scores with 3:57 left in the third. They pushed the lead back to a more comfortable margin, 35-19, on Spencer Klopfenstein’s 18-yard TD pass with 12 seconds left in the third.
Jackson’s third interception near Butler’s 37-yard line led to Feltner’s 24-yard pass from Kotwica, who zipped the pass between a pair of defenders near the end zone. Troy capped the scoring with 4:14 left in the game on a 14-yard pass to Zion Taylor.
“That’s what our offense can do,” Burgbacher said. “When we’re clicking we can move the ball. I just can’t say enough about this team. We’re not one dimensional, we’re not two dimensional but we’re three dimensional with the way our special teams is playing. As a coach it’s great to see the turnaround these kids have made.”
Troy remained tied with Piqua atop the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American North division. Troy is 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the division. Butler fell to 4-3 and 1-1.
The Trojans also entered Friday at No. 2 in the Division II, Region 8 computer points that determine the high school playoff field. The top eight teams advance. And according to playoff-projection site JoeEitel.com, the Trojans should move into the top spot when the new rankings come out early next week. The top four teams host playoff games.
“This is a huge team win,” Jackson said. “We’re keeping this going. We’re going to finish the season strong and can’t wait to see how it plays out.”
The win could also boost Troy’s standing in the D-II state rankings. Troy was No. 9 in this week’s poll.
“It’s great recognition for the kids and the program,” Burgbacher said. “Not that we get caught up in that, but it’s something we’ve done this year. Everything these kids have they’ve earned.”
And they’re not done yet. Troy hosts Sidney next Friday before finishing the regular season on the road at Greenville and Piqua.
“A GWOC American North title is very important to us,” Burgbacher said. “That’s what we’re going after. We’re going to let the other chips fall where they may. … We’ve got people driving by practice yelling beat Piqua. Our kids listen to it. But it’s four weeks away.”
Unofficially, Troy rolled up 463 yards of offense to Butler’s 284. Troy rushed for 196 yards and passed for 267.
“They weren’t going to let Josh and Hayden beat them with the run,” Burgbacher said of Browder’s 50 yards on 16 carries and Kotwica’s 76 yards on 13 carries. The two entered combining for 195 yards per game. “I thought our line protected well when we did want to throw the ball. Our receivers ran good routes. Obviously Hayden made some good throws. I still thought we ran the ball effectively. We didn’t have the big play but we moved the chains. Then we’re able to hit them over the top.”
Kotwica, meanwhile, connected with Taylor five times for 66 yards to pace the passing game. Feltner (3 catches for 55 yards), Hayden Jackson (2-50), Matt McGillivary (3-40), Browder (3-28) and Klopfenstein (2-28) also played key roles in the passing attack.
“I was feeling it,” Kotwica said. “I felt solid and smooth in warmups. It was a great night to play football. … We knew Butler was a good team and we’d be competing for a GWOC North title this week. We need to keep moving, keep grinding every week and win.”