Riding the MVP-performance of senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica, Troy blitzed Piqua with a 21-point third quarter en route to a 37-14 victory in front of 9,700 spectators at Alexander Stadium.
Piqua – They’re not words you hear from the Troy Trojans football program. … “I can’t.”
Not this year. Not as the Trojans reversed the program’s also-ran status after going 10-30 the previous four seasons. Not as the Trojans attempted to avoid the unthinkable – losing to the rival Piqua Indians for a fifth straight time.
They’re not words you’ll hear from the Trojans. … “I can’t.”
But as he stood on the Alexander Stadium/Purk Field turf answering questions following Friday night’s game with that team up north, those were the only two words Troy coach Matt Burgbacher could come up with.
So coach, put into words what it’s like to beat Piqua?
“I can’t,” Burgbacher beamed. “I can’t.”
That’s about the only thing the Trojans couldn’t do Friday night.
Troy – riding the MVP-performance of senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica – blitzed Piqua with a 21-point third quarter en route to a 37-14 victory in front of 9,700 spectators.
The win locked up the American North Division championship in the Greater Western Ohio Conference. It guaranteed Troy one last game at Memorial Stadium for its seniors with a home playoff next Friday night. And it gave those same seniors their first victory against Piqua.
“We’ve been talking since our freshman year. We said we were going to be good our senior year,” said Kotwica, who completed 13-of-19 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown. “We were out here just doing what we do.”
Troy finished the regular season 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the American North Division. Those nine victories nearly equaled Troy’s combined win total (10) from 2015 to 2012. And the Trojans aren’t done yet.
Troy will likely hold the top spot in the Division II, Region 8 playoffs when the pairings are announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. It’s Troy’s first postseason appearance since 2011 when the Trojans went 8-2, their last winning record.
“It feels nice because we’re going to have our big home crowd,” Kotwica said. “Hopefully we’ll have the stadium rocking. We have the greatest student section.”
Added Burgbacher: “Our kids earned it. Our kids deserved this,” Burgbacher said. “They wanted to be the team to turn it around. And they did. It’s so easy to say it. To actually go out and do it, these kids did it. I couldn’t be more proud of them. The assistant coaches get a lot of credit. And the kids get the rest of the credit. They come to work every day. We’re hard on them. We push them. But they’ve responded to every challenge we’ve given them.”
They came up big again Friday.
Troy recovered the opening kickoff after a devastating hit jarred the ball lose from Piqua’s return man. The game was halted for 10 minutes as the player was attended to. He was taken off the field as a precaution on a backboard and transported to the hospital.
Once play resumed, Troy led 3-0 two minutes later on Jake Anderson’s 28-yard field goal.
After forcing a punt, Troy made it 10-0 on Kotwica’s 1-yard touchdown run. The drive was highlighted by Matt McGillivary’s 13-yard catch on third-and-9 from Piqua’s 21-yard line.
Piqua pulled to 10-7 on Ben Schmiesing’s 14-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter.
The back-and-forth Battle on the Miami continued as Kotwica ran in his second touchdown a minute later, this one a two-yarder set up by his 60-yard pass to Kobe Feltner. Troy led 16-7 (the kick failed).
Piqua pulled to 16-14 four minutes before the half when quarterback Austin Davis connected with Hayden Schrubb for a 14-yard TD strike.
Troy led at the half, but Burgbacher said the Trojans’ locker room took on a different vibe.
“I’ll be honest with you. We went into halftime and you would’ve thought we were losing by three touchdowns,” said Burgbacher, whose team was gashed by the tandem rushing attack of Schmiesing (18 carries for 128 yards) and Allen Schrubb (15-78). “The kids were down. The coaches were upset.”
Troy, which had some success with its passing game in the first half, unleashed Kotwica and his numerous targets in the third quarter. Troy scored three touchdowns in the first 4:30 of the third quarter on drives of five, one and three plays. Kotwica scrambled and found Zion Taylor alone in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, Kotwica scrambled for a 46-yard score and Josh Browder – who harassed a Piqua defender just enough to help Kotwica score on his run – added a 15-yard score to make it 37-14.
Kotwica rushed 11 times for 83 yards and three touchdowns. Browder added 51 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
“I’ve waited my whole high school career to beat Piqua,” said Browder, clutching the rivalry trophy. “To smash them like that is a dream come true.”
Troy had 354 yards of total offense to Piqua’s 351. But the Trojans outdistanced the Indians with field position. Four of Troy’s scoring drives started in Piqua territory.
Defensively, Will Brumfield led Troy with 16 tackles. Anderson and Michael Murray both had nine. Derek McDonagh and Shane Shoop both had eight, while Shoop was also credited with a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“When teams turn the ball over you gotta make them pay,” Burgbacher said. “Our defense did a phenomenal job of getting turnovers and our offense did a great job of coming away with points. … Our kids were jacked up. They wanted this game. This was their last chance and they weren’t going to graduate without beating Piqua.”
In doing so, the Trojans evened the series record with the Indians at 63-63-6 in Ohio’s most-played rivalry. Friday’s meeting was the 132nd in a rivalry that started in 1899.
“We had so much pressure on us,” Kotwica said. “We had a good week of practice. Everyone worked hard. We came out and did what we do. We kept working and grinding. The line blocked their butt off. The defense played their butt off. We got the win. … The MVP doesn’t matter. Football is a team sport. It’s a team win.”
And there have been plenty of those this season.
When Burgbacher interviewed for the Troy job prior to the 2015 season, he told the search committee the goal was to make games like Friday – playing Piqua for the league championship – the norm. But even Burgbacher surprised himself with how fast Troy got there.
“Did I think it was going to be in two years? I knew I was a possibility,” Burgbacher said. “This feels great. With what was at state tonight – it’s Troy vs. Piqua – but with the added stuff at stake it feels even better.
“Our community loves football. They’ve been starving for a team. These boys wanted to do it for themselves. They wanted to do it for their teammates. But more importantly they wanted to do it for their community. They wanted to bring that title back to Troy where it belongs.”