By David Fong
TROY — Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher knows what is coming Friday night.
His players do, too.
Chances are, most of the people in Troy Memorial Stadium Friday will have a pretty good idea what’s coming.
“We know going into this game that Isaiah Bowser is going to get 35-40 carries,” Burgbacher said of Sidney’s junior running back. “I don’t think that’s a big secret.”
Knowing what’s coming and doing something about it are two different things, entirely, however.
Bowser, a chiseled 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior, has emerged as one of the premier running backs in the Greater Western Ohio Conference this season. He leads the GWOC in rushing with 191 carries for 1,297 yards and 20 touchdowns.
With three games remaining in the regular season, he’s already closing in in a number of Sidney’s single-season rushing and scoring records. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards in every game he’s played this season and topped the 200-yard mark in three games this year.
Stopping Bowser — or, at the very least, slowing him down — will be key for Troy (6-1, 2-0 in the GWOC American North Division) as it takes on Sidney (3-4, 0-2 in the American North) Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium in the Trojans’ final home game of the regular season.
“Obviously he’s a big part of what they do,” Burgbacher said. “They run a lot of different schemes and find a lot of different ways to get him the ball — they’ll run zone, they’ll run the toss, they’ll run power read. You’ve got to wrap him up. A lot of times, the first guy isn’t going to get him by himself, so you’ve got to wrap up and make sure you have multiple guys going to the ball.”
Bowser has seen his workload increase dramatically after a rash of injuries hit the Yellowjackets at the quarterback position. Sophomore quarterback Andre Gordon — who already has emerged as a top Division I college prospect in both football and basketball — was injured in the season opener against St. Marys. His back-up, senior Jack Feazel, played the next three games, but has not played in Sidney’s three most recent games.
Senior Dillon King has since stepped in and played quarterback the past three games. He had a breakout performance last week against Tippecanoe, completing 14 of 28 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown.
“While you have to be aware of Bowser, it’s not like you can ignore the rest of their team — they’ve still got a lot of great skill guys,” Burgbacher said. “King was a wide receiver for them the past few years, so it’s not like he’s new to varsity football. He’s a very good athlete.
“This will be his fourth start. When you watch him on film, you can see him gaining confidence and getting better every week. So it’s not like this is going to be his first start. He’s an experienced quarterback now and he can make things happen for them. Plus, they’ve got some great weapons on the outside. They’ve got some impressive receivers.”
Senior Conor Beer leads the Yellowjackets in receiving with 27 catches for 468 yards — fifth in the GWOC — and a pair of touchdowns. Last week against Tippecanoe, he had a career night with seven catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. Senior Allec Gordon has 15 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
“They’ll send Bowser one way and then go the other way to their receivers,” Burgbacher said. “They like to spread you out. You’ve got to be ready to defend all 53 yards of the field. They’ve got other guys who can beat you.”
Sidney defense is anchored by Deven Rogers, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound junior who has received scholarship offers from a number of Mid-American Conference schools.
“They’ll run a 3-3 stack that is almost the exact same as what Bellefontaine ran,” Burgbacher said. “Devan Rogers is one of the best noseguards we’ll see all year — he’s definitely in the conversation as one of the best in the conference. We’ve got to make sure we block him, whether that means double teaming him or whatever. He rules the middle.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong