By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe still got off to a fast start.
That start just came much, much later in the evening.
After the storms and lightning that caused the postponement of many of the area’s games finally rolled through, the Red Devils put up 17 first-quarter points Friday night against visiting Greenville. And while the Green Wave fought back — largely behind the arm of quarterback Clay Guilozet — Tippecanoe was able to recover from a sluggish start to the second half and grind out a hard-fought 32-19 Week 2 victory at Tipp City Park.
Originally scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start, the game didn’t begin until 9:35 p.m. — and didn’t end until 12:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. But once it did get going, it didn’t take long for Tippecanoe (2-0) to strike.
After forcing Greenville (1-1) to punt on its opening possession, the Devils’ speed came into play as Cameron Gibbs got the edge on a sweep, slipped out of a tackle and then cut back toward the middle of the field, taking it 57 yards to put the Devils up 7-0.
“A lot of teams are struggling with our speed,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge said. “We came out fast in the first quarter. Greenville had trouble with our speed, but they adjusted as the game went on — and the field was wet, too. It was hard to get traction and cut like we normally do.”
On the Green Wave’s first play from scrimmage, Guilozet had a pass tipped at the line, and Tippecanoe’s Cole Barhorst came down with the interception. The Devils couldn’t break off the big run this time, but they drove it to the Greenville 2-yard line, and Dylan Shomper connected on a 19-yard field goal to make it 10-0. Greenville struck back, though, as Guilozet showed off his arm strength by hitting Brandon Mead in stride for a 57-yard touchdown. Jack Peura blocked the point-after, though, and Tippecanoe held a 10-6 lead.
A solid kickoff return by Jakob Prall gave the Devils the ball on their own 40, and they marched that distance in seven plays in under two minutes as quarterback Brandon Gotthardt connected on consecutive passes to Trevor Staggs, Bobby Hopkins and Jacob Ambos. Once in striking range, Gibbs was able to turn the corner on a 13-yard sweep put Tippecanoe up 17-6 after one.
Prall — who was never able to break off his typical big runs from scrimmage — showed how dangerous he was in other ways, returning a punt 75 yards for a touchdown on the Wave’s ensuing possession to make it 24-6 early in the second quarter.
Greenville fought back, though, driving the ball 70 yards in 15 plays, culminating in a fourth-and-4 from the Tipp 13. Guilozet rolled away from the pressure and was able to find Mead alone in the corner of the end zone to cut Tippecanoe’s lead to 24-12 with 35.8 seconds left in the half. Tippecanoe hurriedly took the ball the other way, getting to the Greenville 26 but missing a 44-yard field goal on the half’s final play.
Guilozet finished the first half 8 for 13 for 147 yards through the air as the Wave couldn’t find a way to get its ground game going against the Devils’ defensive front. Running back Codi Byrd was held to 51 yards on 11 tries in the first half — and he finished with 76 yards on 15 carries. And Guilozet finished with 36 yards on 10 carries as the Devils held the Wave to 112 rushing yards on the night.
“We told the team that last year, except for the Trotwood game, when Byrd rushed for 100 yards or more, they won,” Derge said. “When he didn’t, they lost.
“The day after our Graham game, we had film to show the kids on Guilozet. We didn’t see him last year, and we had to make sure the kids knew that they’re a completely different team with him in there. When he took off running, we were able to keep him contained. He had two big plays in the first half with his arm, but that was it.”
Greenville turned in another big play to start the second half, though, as Logan Eldridge jumped a screen pass and took it 24 yards the other way for a pick-six. The Wave were unable to convert the two-point try, though, and Tippecanoe’s lead only shrunk to 24-19.
After that, the Devils turned up the intensity.
A 12-play possession may not have netted any points — Greenville held on fourth-and-1 at its own 11 — but it chewed up valuable time and slowed the Wave’s momentum. The Tippecanoe defense quickly forced a punt, and the Devils immediately began churning out yards again. This time, they took the ball 75 yards in 12 plays, finally scoring early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Trevor Staggs. Gotthardt then threw to Staggs for the two-point conversion, and Tippecanoe led 32-19 with 11:30 to play.
“Last year against Kenton Ridge here on another rainy night, we struggled with the wet field, too,” Derge said. “It was wet and hard to get traction. But we just played Tippecanoe football.”
After the teams traded punts, Greenville got one last chance with the ball. The Wave took it from its own 20 to the Tippecanoe 18, but an incomplete pass, a screen that netted nothing and two more incompletions gave the ball back to the Devils. Chris Garber immediately broke off a 45-yard run to put the ball across midfield with 2:30 left to play, and the Devils ate the rest of the clock with a seven-play drive that ended with a quarterback kneel at the Greenville 5 on the final play of the game.
For the game, Tippecanoe rushed for 310 yards and had 372 yards of total offense. In the second half alone, they ran the ball 32 times — twice as many times as in the first half — and ran 38 plays from scrimmage compared to Greenville’s 19. Gibbs finished with 99 yards and two scores on seven carries, Prall had 81 yards on 12 carries, Garber had 63 yards on seven carries and Austin Subler had 49 yards on 13 carries.
For the Devils, it was not just a good early-season test against a tough non-league opponent — it was a preview of what it will be like to play in the Greater Western Ohio Conference next season.
“This was a big win for us,” Derge said. “Hopefully these sophomores and juniors see what GWOC football is all about. They’re going to need to remember this next year when we join the league.
“The word Tippecanoe has 10 letters, there’s 10 weeks, so each week we have a letter. This week’s was ‘I’ for intensity. We told the kids at the half that we know it’s 11 at night, we know you’re tired, but you’ve got to make your own intensity. You’ve got to find a way — and they did.”
Tippecanoe travels to Milton-Union in Week 3.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.