By David Fong
TROY — It was a long, intense week of practice for the Troy defense — one in which every member got up close and personal instruction from Trojan defensive coordinator Charlie Burgbacher.
As in, “in your face and very loud” up close and personal instruction as the venerable coach threw down the gauntlet in front of his charges.
“Our goals were to shut them down because they scored, like, 52 points on us last year, and they broke their record for most yards against us — Coach ‘Chuck’ was on us the whole week; he was so mad,” Troy senior inside linebacker Michael Murray said. “He runs a tight ship anyway — this week it was even tighter. He really challenged us this week.”
And the Trojan defense responded. In the final home game of the season, the Troy football team’s defense turned in its best performance of the season in a 31-6 win over Sidney. With the win, Troy improved to 7-1 (3-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division), while Sidney fell to 3-5 (0-3 in the American North).
The win also solidified Troy’s spot in the Division II playoffs and kept the Trojans in front of the pack in the race for its first league or conference title since 2000.
On a night in which the offense was slowed by penalties and turnovers, the defense turned in a virtuoso performance as it stuffed Sidney star running back Isaiah Bowser the entire night. He came into Friday’s game having already rushed for 1,297 yards on the season and averaging 185.3 rushing yards per game. Troy held him to just 51 rushing yards, becoming the first team all season to hold him under 100 rushing yards in a game.
“Defense was outstanding,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “That was our best defensive game we played. We had a few breakdowns and we bent a little bit on a few drives, but we didn’t break. Our goal was to stop Bowser tonight. We weren’t going to let him beat us.”
Troy had several scoring drives scuttled by turnovers and penalties, but that didn’t stop quarterback Hayden Kotwica from throwing for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He put the Trojans on the board first with a 16-yard strike to Matt McGillivary on fourth down midway through the first quarter.
Big runs by senior tailback Josh Browder took the Trojans down to the Yellowjacket 8 on their next drive, but a Sidney sack forced the Trojans to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Jake Anderson, giving the Trojans a 10-0 lead.
“I didn’t think we had the energy on offense — I think part of the problem may have been we had too much energy on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice,” Burgbacher said. “We kind of ran out of gas tonight. But hey, you’re never going to hear me complain about a win.”
Trojan miscues would allow Sidney to stay within two scores for most of the first half until Troy took over at its own 27 with 1:57 to play in the second quarter following a Sidney punt. On the very next play, Kotwica hooked up with Browder on a short, quick swing pass. Browder broke free from several defenders — including one nipping out his heels near midfield — and outraced the Sidney defense the rest of the way for a 73-yard score to put Troy up 17-0 going into halftime.
Sam Jackson would intercept a Sidney pass early in the third quarter to set up Troy’s next score, a 36-yard touchdown pass from Kotwica to Zion Taylor. Jackson would added another interception late in the game, giving up five in the last two games.
“I appreciate everything these guys are doing,” the sophomore said of the rest of his defense. “We’re just clicking on all cylinders and everybody is stepping up and playing hard. Coaches put me in the right spot and the rest of the defense is getting pressure on the quarterback. It’s a great feeling.”
Up 24-0 following the touchdown pass to Taylor, Troy would add another score when senior tailback Marc Scordia scored on a 4-yard when in which he bulled his way through several tackles for the touchdown.
Sidney’s lone score of the game came when its defense returned a Trojan fumble for a touchdown. Anderson would add an interception to seal the victory for the Trojans and secure a win on Senior Night.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Burgbacher said. “We’re right where we want to be.”
Up close and personal.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong