TROY — You would have thought they were down by three touchdowns.
Standing on the sidelines in the waning moments of the Troy football team’s game against Sidney Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium, a night’s worth of frustrations was starting to bubble to the surface for the Trojans.
It had been a long night — one that saw the Trojans turn the ball over five times, amass nearly 100 yards in penalties and, in the final minutes, give up a fumble that was returned for a touchdown — and the mood was grim. Pointed words were being used to describe the performance and more than a few players were dejectedly hanging their heads.
It bears mentioning the Trojans were winning 31-6 at the time.
That same final score would be enough to propel the Trojans to a 7-1 (3-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division) record by the end of the night. Troy further cemented its place in the Division II playoffs and remained atop the American North Division and in the hunt for its first conference, league or division title since 2000.
Still, though, it was not quite enough.
“Can you believe that?” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said with an impish grin as he sat in the Trojan locker room following the game, long after his players had left for the evening. He took off his white ballcap, ran his fingers through his hair and let out a sigh. “We win by three touchdowns and we are not happy with our performance. Winning isn’t enough for this group anymore — we are still looking for a complete game. We haven’t played it yet this year. I’m hoping we can piece it all together and play a complete game this season.”
Winning in and of itself no longer suits the Trojans. Now they are looking to do it with style.
My, how times have changed.
This is the same team that, just one year ago, was blown out 52-28 by the Yellowjackets. This is the same team that limped to the end of the season with a 2-8 finish. This is the same team that would have gladly taken a few more wins any way they could have gotten them just one year ago.
Those are not these Trojans. Sure, they are happy with wins, but they are playing with a whole new set of standards and expectations this year. They are looking for perfection — or as near to it as they can possibly get — every time they step out on the field. They want to excel in every fact of the game — offense, defense and special teams.
Safe to say, the bar has been raised for the Troy football team.
“Can you imagine what would have happened to us last year if we had played a game like this?” Burgbacher said. “What would have happened to us last year if we had turned the ball over five times and had as many penalties and mistakes as we had (Friday)? I can tell you what would have happened — we probably would have been on the other end of the 31-6 score. I guess it’s a good thing if you can make as many mistakes as we did and still win by 25 points.”
All of which just goes to show how truly amazing Troy’s turnaround has been — not just with the results on the field, but in the hearts and minds of players. No longer do they go out hoping to win — they go out expecting to win. The swagger is back in Troy, Ohio. Troy once again is a name to be respected throughout the area high school football community.
That being said, with two regular season games remaining against quality opponents — an underrated Greenville team and, of course, rival Piqua in the final game of the regular season — Troy still has so much on the table to play for. They have yet to wrap up that elusive division title and still are searching for another game at Troy Memorial Stadium in the form of an opening round playoff contest.
Will they achieve those goals? We’ll know for sure two weeks from now.
But this much we already know — they are going to give it all they’ve got, because they refuse to settle for what they’ve already accomplished.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong