By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher doesn’t know why the Troy and Tippecanoe football teams — two programs located just miles apart — have not played one another since 1985 and have only played one another twice since 1946.
The former Tippecanoe quarterback and current Troy head coach admits, however, that when he was in school the timing probably wasn’t right.
“When I was there in the 1990s, that’s back when Troy had those absolute powerhouse teams,” said Burgbacher, a 1995 Tippecanoe High School graduate. “We had some good teams at Tipp back then, but I don’t know how we would have matched up against some of those Troy teams. I know when I was in school, we always kind of felt like we were in Troy’s shadows, a little bit. Troy and Piqua were the big schools in the county back then.”
While the two teams haven’t played in more than three decades, there was a time when the two schools were regular opponents — and Troy absolutely dominated the series between the two schools. The two teams have played a total of 24 times since the first meeting in 1904 — a 6-0 Tippecanoe victory — and Troy has won 20, Tippecanoe has won two and the two teams tied twice. In the 24 games between the two schools, Troy has outscored Tippecanoe by a total of 564-65, an average score of 23.5 to 2.7. Troy shut out Tippecanoe 14 times in those 24 meetings.
The two teams played every year from 1928 to 1946, with Troy winning 16 times, Tippecanoe winning once in 1939 — it’s last win against Troy — and the two teams tying twice. In those 19 consecutive meetings, the Trojans outscored the Red Devils by a combined total of 440-49, an average score of 23.1 to 2.6, with Troy shutting out Tippecanoe 11 times.
Following the 1946 meeting between the two schools, they would not play again until a single home-and-home series in 1984 and 1985. Troy won both of those games, beating Tippecanoe 27-2 in 1984 and 42-14 in 1985. That would be the last meeting between the two schools … until now. The Trojans (4-1) and Red Devils (4-1) will play tonight at Troy Memorial Stadium in Tippecanoe’s first division game since joining the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
And while the overall series may be extremely lopsided, it’s also ancient history as far as both Burgbacher and Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge are concerned.
“Our kids feel like we’ve put ourselves in a position to play in a game like this,” Derge said. “We’ve given ourselves a chance to play in a game like this, based on some of the things we’ve accomplished in recent years.”
The Red Devils rose to prominence under former coach Charlie Burgbacher — Matt’s father, who is now the defensive coordinator at Troy — who took over the program in 1989. Tippecanoe made its first-ever playoff appearance in 2002 and have been to the postseason every year since 2005 for 12-consecutive appearances and 13 overall.
That pushes Tippecanoe past Troy (11 playoff appearances) — although it does bear mentioning the two have never been in the same Ohio High School Athletic Association playoff division. Derge took Tippecanoe to the playoffs last since in his first year as head coach. In the regional quarterfinals, Tippecanoe beat Piqua, a team it will now face every year in the GWOC American North.
All of which is to say that Tippecanoe may once have been a small fish in a big pond, but has grown in the past 20 years and certainly has proven itself worthy of playing against teams with the tradition and history of Troy and Piqua.
“I think the playing field has definitely leveled out,” Burgbacher said. “Tippecanoe has proven what it’s capable of recently with all those playoff appearances. It’s a program that really grew under my dad and has continued to do so under Coach Derge.”
Certainly, tonight’s game would be huge on its own merit. Not only is it the GWOC American North opener for both teams, but with both teams coming in at 4-1, a huge cachet of computer playoff points should await the winner. The fact both schools are so close — and have waited so long to play another — just adds to the excitement, both coaches agreed.
“This is a big game between two great teams and two great communities,” Derge said. “Both teams are doing to be pumped up to play this one. The kids all know each other through social media. The coaches all know each other. I think we are going to have a great crowd and Troy is going to have a great crowd. I expect the stadium to be packed. It’s a great thing for both teams.”
“I’m glad we are finally doing this after 31 years,” he said. “And now that Tipp is in our division, we know we won’t have to wait 31 years to do it again — we’ll get to do it every year. It’s big for both communities. You’ve got two communities that are right up against one another. Where is the dividing line along 25-A? I don’t know. Is the Dave Arbogast in Troy or is it in Tipp? Is the Circle K in Troy or is it in Tipp? I don’t know these things.
“All I do know is this — you’ve got two great teams from two great communities that are going to play one another. I expect their side of the stands to be full and I expect our side of the stands to be full. It’s going to be a great thing for the kids. Let’s face it, this what high school sports are supposed to be about.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong