By David Fong
TROTWOOD — Markell Stephens-Peppers stole the show.
With all eyes on Trotwood-Madison star running back Raveion Hargrove, it was Trotwood’s senior quarterback Stephens-Peppers who torched the Troy football team early and often, staking the Rams to an insurmountable 28-0 halftime lead as Trotwood went on to a 48-0 victory over the Trojans Friday in the season opener for both teams. With win the win, Trotwood improved to 1-0 and avenged two consecutive losses to the Trojans, while Troy fell to 0-1.
“I was right in my assessment — he’s made a huge, huge improvement from when we saw him two years ago,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said of Stephens-Peppers. “That was the difference. He managed the game. He controlled the game. He made audibles and spread our defense.”
In the first half alone, Stephens-Peppers completed 15 of 23 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, one a 13-yard scoring pass to Dallas Daniels and a 51-yard bomb to William McDaniel. He also had eight carries for 64 yards and one touchdown, all in the first half as well. Hargrove — who came into the game with almost 5,000-career rushing yards — did have a 13-yard touchdown run in the first half, but was otherwise kept in check by Troy’s defense, which held him to 9 carries for 28 yards.
Of course, with the way Stephens-Peppers was playing, the Rams didn’t need a big night from Hargrove.
Trotwood jumped all over Troy early, scoring three touchdowns on its first three possessions to take a 22-0 lead. The Trotwood defense, meanwhile, stuffed Troy repeatedly. In the first half, Trotwood racked up 320 yards in total offense, while holding Troy to just 107 yards.
“They aren’t as big as they have been in the past, but they are a lot quicker,” Burgbacher said. “All 11 of them can run.”
The Trojans’ only first-half scoring threat came in the second quarter after a Shane Shoop punt pinned Trotwood deep in its own territory and Troy’s defense forced Trotwood to punt out of its own end zone, giving Troy the ball at the Trotwood 45.
After a facemask penalty on the Rams, Shoop — who, like the rest of Troy’s offense, had been bottled up early — broke free on a 35-yard run to the Trotwood 8-yard line. Trotwood’s defense sacked Troy quarterback Sam Coleman and forced an incompletion and short run on the next four plays, however, as Troy came away with no points.
Down 28-0 to start the second half, things would immediately go from bad to worse just three plays into the second quarter when Trotwood picked off Troy quarterback Sam Coleman near midfield and returned it for a touchdown, upping the Rams’ lead to 34-0 and starting a running clock “mercy rule.”
With the game out of reach and the clock running, Stephens-Peppers and Hargrove would essentially sit the entire second half.
Troy had a chance to make things a little more respectable when linebacker John Wehrkamp pounced on a fumble at the Trotwood 15. Four plays netted the Trojans just one yard, however. After Trotwood got the ball back, the Rams immediately converted on a long touchdown pass, pushing the score to 42-0. Following a Trojan fumble, Trotwood would score again to extend its lead to 48-0.
Troy must quickly regroup, as it hosts Xenia Thursday in a game that will be televised throughout the Miami Valley.
“We got a good dose of humble pie,” Burgbacher said. “But it’s Week 1, and it’s not like we were playing a bad football team. The last 10 years, they’ve beat a lot of teams. Tonight, we were just one of them. I’ll take the blame for this one. We’ve got some things we need to fix. We need to fix things personnel-wise. We need to fix X’s and O’s. We’ll look at everything.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong