By David Fong
TIPP CITY — There’s been a little Burgbacher magic floating around Tipp City Park for three decades.
There was nothing magical about the Troy football team’s 28-13 comeback win over Tippecanoe Friday, however.
It was just hard-nosed, smash-mouth football.
“It was a tale of two halves,” said Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher, who played quarterback at Tippecanoe and whose father Charlie — the defensive coordinator at Troy who coached the Red Devils for nearly three decades — said following the Trojans’ victory. “At halftime, we challenged our kids to take ownership of the game.”
Tippecanoe used a swarming defense and an opportunistic offense to take a 13-0 halftime lead, but the Trojans came storming back in the second half, using three turnovers and three touchdown runs by bullish running back Sam Jackson to pull away for the 28-13 victory.
With the win, Troy improved to 4-2 (1-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division), while county rival Tippecanoe fell to 3-3 (0-1 in the GWOC North).
“First of all, I’d like to give all the credit to God, who made this possible,” said Jackson, who added an interception to his three touchdown runs late in the game to seal the victory. “I’d like to thank my teammates. At halftime, we knew Coach Burgbacher would come up with something. He’s a great coach and we knew he’d have a great plan.”
Forcing turnovers usually makes for a great game plan.
Troy took control early in the second half, forcing a fumble on the kickoff, which kicker Brayden Siler recovered at the Tippecanoe 39. Ten plays later, Jackson powered his way in from 7 yards out, cutting Tippecanoe’s lead to 13-7.
Later in the quarter, Troy’s defense stopped Tippecanoe deep in its own territory and nearly blocked a punt, which went just 12 yards, giving the Trojans the ball at the Red Devil 36.
“Our defense played great all night,” Burgbacher said. “They did a great job giving us the short field. We needed that.”
Five plays later, Jackson bulldozed his way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night and Siler booted the extra point, giving Troy its first lead of the game, 14-13, just as the fourth quarter started.
Two players later, Troy’s defense again gave the offense a short field when Zach Boyer picked off a pass at the Red Devil 33, picked up a few blocks and returned it all the way to the Tippecanoe 15. Following a 14-yard run by Jackson, he took it in from a yard out, putting the Trojans up 21-13.
“Our offensive line dominated in the second half,” Burgbacher said. “They did an outstanding job.”
Down in the fourth quarter with time running out, Tippecanoe — which came into the game averaging just five passes per game — was forced to throw. That resulted in another turnover when Derek McDonagh picked off a halfback pass deep and returned it to the Red Devil 33, which would set up Troy’s final score of the night, a 1-yard plunge by Shane Shoop.
“Give our kids credit,” Burgbacher said. “They kept fighting. They faced some adversity — a lot of adversity — in the first half, but they just kept on fighting.”
It was an inauspicious start for the Trojans when they coughed the ball up at their own own 26. Tippecanoe would drive the ball down to the Trojan 11, where the drive stalled. Caiden Smith booted the first of his two first-half field goals, putting the Red Devils up 3-0.
Troy got the ball back and picked up its lone first down of the first half, but would still end up punting the ball near midfield. Tippecanoe took over at its own 35. With Cole Barhorst pounding away at the middle of the line, Troy’s defensive backfield got caught flat-footed, allowing Brad Detwiller to hook up with a wide-open Clay Barhorst on a 49-yard touchdown pass, putting Tippecanoe up 10-0.
“Our kids came out and played hard,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge said. “Last year, they wore us down. This year, we kept fighting right to the end.”
Tippecanoe’s defense continued to dominate the game in the first half, however, as Troy as held to just one first down and 50 yards in total offense in the first two quarters. Tippecanoe, meanwhile, was able to move the ball effectively on the ground, while mixing in the pass as needed.
Troy did block a field goal on one Tippecanoe drive, but Smith added a 31-yarder late in the second quarter to put the Red Devils up 13-0 going into halftime.
In the end, though, it was another win for a coach with the surname Burgbacher in Tipp City Park.
“We tried to keep that out of it,” Burgbacher said. “We tried not to make it personal. But this was a great win for our kids. Give them the credit.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong