Troy took it to Anderson early, but a late interception — and the Redskins’ uptempo offense — sealed the Trojans’ playoff fate in a stunning 38-35 loss in the regional semifinals.
Miamisburg – With a prolific and fast-paced passing attack, offense gets most of the attention for the Anderson Redskins. But on Friday night against the Troy Trojans, the Redskins also brought the D.
Disbelief. Disappointment. Dejection.
In a game where the team holding the ball last seemed destined to win, that turned out to be Anderson when a defender intercepted Troy’s pass deep in Redskins’ territory with 35 seconds left in the game. That sealed Anderson’s comeback 38-35 in the Division II, Region 8 semifinals at Miamisburg’s Holland Field.
Troy, seeded No. 3 in Region 8, was seeking its first regional final appearance since 1996. Anderson was seeded No. 7 and coming off last week’s 42-35 upset over No. 2 Kings.
Three times Troy led by 14 points, the final time up 28-14 with 41 seconds left before halftime. But with Anderson’s up-tempo offense no lead appeared safe. The Redskins, who kicked a field goal to trail 28-17 at halftime, outscored Troy 21-7 in the second half.
Friday’s meeting was the third straight in the postseason. Troy (10-2) won the first-round game 41-35 in 2016. Anderson (9-3) won in the first round 33-0 last year.
And it was either team’s game to start the fourth quarter as Troy led 28-23.
Anderson, electing to bypass punts and field goal attempts, faced fourth-and-10 on the Trojans’ 19-yard line. Anderson quarterback David Thompson hit Ross Parrish over the middle for the Redskins’ first lead of the game with 9:38 left. The Redskins scored on the two-point conversion pass for the 31-28 advantage.
On Troy’s next possession a third-down fumble forced the Trojans to punt. The Trojans’ defense held, though, and stopped the Redskins on fourth down at midfield. One play later – a 50-yard weaving touchdown run straight up the middle by Jayden Culp-Bishop – Troy regained the lead 35-31 with 4:33 remaining.
It took 11 plays, but Anderson answered. Thompson tossed a quick out in the right flat to Joey Newton. Newton made two defenders miss and sprinted 14 yards for the 38-35 lead with 1:52 left.
Anderson – not wanting to give up another 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Culp-Bishop – pooch kicked it to give the Trojans’ great field position at their own 42 with 1:49 left. Troy drove to Anderson’s 30 when quarterback Brayden Siler rolled out under pressure. He scrambled to his left tried to heave the ball out of bounds. But with temperatures in the low 30s and perhaps his grip not as strong, the ball stayed in bounds and fell into the arms of Conner Brondhaver with 35 seconds left.
“I think Brayden was trying to throw that ball out of bounds. It just slipped out of his hand a little bit,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “I told the kids hold your heads high. I’m so proud of these guys. This one is going to hurt for awhile. But at the end of the day they’re three-time GWOC North champs. Three times in the playoffs. Anytime it comes to an end it’s disappointing.”
Late in the third quarter Troy drove to Anderson’s 11-yard line before Eric Curless stepped in front of Siler’s pass at the Redskins’ 3-yard line. The Redskins capped that drive with Parrish’s touchdown catch.
“He’s trying to make a play and I love that about Brayden,” Burgbacher said. “They made a great play (on the first interception) and the last one he’s trying to throwing it out of bounds and it slips a little bit. It happens. The good thing is he’s a junior and he’s coming next year. Learn from it, that’s the biggest thing.”
Troy leaned on Culp-Bishop in the first half, when he picked up 100 of his 183 yards rushing. But Anderson slowed down Troy’s running game in the second half, excluding that 50-yard touchdown run.
In addition to his 50-yard TD and 85-yard kickoff return, Culp-Bishop also scored on runs of 9, 4 and 9 yards. He finished the season with 2,420 yards rushing.
“I think he’s one of the best running backs, up there with Miyan Williams of Winton Woods,” Anderson coach Evan Dreyer said. “Those two are very, very good. I think our linebacking corp had to step up. It was our defensive staff. Those guys don’t get enough credit. … People think we’re all offense. We did a good job this week making sure our defense played well. We made enough plays to win the game tonight.”
Troy led 7-0 almost three minutes into the game on Culp-Bishop’s first score. It was set up by Siler’s 57-yard strike to Tucker Raskay.
Troy stopped Anderson on fourth-and-6 from the Trojans 6-yard line. The teams then traded fumbles as Troy lost the ball on Anderson’s 45-yard line and – two plays later – Troy’s Jacob Shoop recovered a fumble at midfield.
Culp-Bishop made it 14-0 with 9:43 left in the second quarter. Anderson scored on its next drive on the first of Thompson’s 1-yard sneaks behind offensive lineman and University of Notre Dame recruit Zeke Correll.
Troy held leads of 21-7 and 28-14 before Anderson rallied in the second half.
“We called it a trilogy,” Dreyer said. “The first year we lost in a nailbiter. Last year we had a really good quarterback. This year our seniors played really, really well against them. They have a heck of a ball team. Their running back and quarterback are special players.”
Troy finished with 397 yards of total offense and Anderson had 525. Thompson completed 30 of 41 passes for 323 yards. Down to their third-string running back because of injuries, sophomore Andrew Williams responded with 111 yards on 25 carries.
“It was a great high school football game. (But) it’s upsetting to lose,” Burgbacher said. “You spend more time with these kids than you do your own kids. I know more about these guys than I probably should know. You love them like your own kids. It’s tough. Every team’s gotta end. There are only going to be seven teams at the end of the year. Unfortunately we weren’t one of them.
“They’ve done so much. The biggest thing I’m proud of is they’ve grown into mature men. We’ve had our moments. We all do. But the bottom line is I’m just proud of them. They love to compete and they give great effort. That’s two things I haven’t been able to question all year.”