Will Brumfield walked gingerly out the door of the locker room at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium Friday night carrying two things with him — a bag full of his belongings in his left hand and a body full of bumps and bruises following a hard night’s work.
One thing the senior on the Troy football team was no longer carrying with him, however, was the weight of the world upon his broad shoulders. That had been lifted roughly 30 minutes earlier when he and his Trojan teammates knocked off rival Piqua 37-14 in the 132nd meeting between the two teams.
“This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” said Brumfield, who led the Trojan defense with 16 tackles. “I realize I’m only 17 years old … but this is the greatest moment of my life.”
It’s been a season full of great moments for the Trojans, who may very well the ultimate feel-good story in the entire high school football-frenzied state of Ohio. Just one year ago, Troy was limped to the end of a 2-8 season with a 26-7 loss to Piqua. That capped off a four-year stretch that saw the Trojans go a combined 10-30 and lose to their bitter rivals four years in a row.
This season, the Trojans announced their presence to the world in Week 1 with a stunning 10-6 win over state power Trotwood-Madison, then promptly went 8-1 the first nine weeks of the season, earning a Division II playoff home game in the process.
For all the Trojans had accomplished, however, they still had everything to prove Friday night against the Indians. As fine a start to the season as they had, Troy still had yet to clinch a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title — Troy hadn’t shared a division title since 2000 and had not won a title outright since 1998 — had yet to defeat their historic rival in four tries and still trailed in the all-time series between the two teams.
As nice as the first nine weeks of the season were for the Trojans, they all knew deep down it could all be washed away if they didn’t finish the job. Simply put, losing to Piqua Friday night was unacceptable.
“This was for everything,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “This is a game we had to win for so many reasons.”
All of that, however, was taken care of Friday night in impressive fashion as the Trojans blew open a 16-14 halftime lead, scoring 21 unanswered points in the opening minutes of the third quarter, then turning the rest of the second half into what amounted to a victory parade up and down the turf at Alexander Stadium.
A win over their rival, snapping a four-game skid? Check. Series all evened up at 63-63-6? Check. Most important of all, Troy’s first division title since 2000? Check, check, double check.
As magical as the ride has been for the Trojans this season, it would not have been the same without a win against Piqua. With that safely stashed away, the Trojans can start looking ahead to the “second season,” the playoffs, knowing they accomplished all they had set out to do at the beginning of the season.
Before we are so quick to move on to the postseason — although official playoff pairings won’t be announced until later today, it looks as if Troy will host Prince this Friday — perhaps now, with the glow of the win over Piqua still burning bright, is the time to appreciate just how much the Trojans have accomplished so far.
This is a team that not many outside the program gave a chance of competing in the American North, let alone winning the whole shooting match. While many would have been satisfied with a return to respectability given Troy’s recent history, Burgbacher, his staff and his players dared to dream bigger. They weren’t satisfied to make this year a part of the rebuilding process — they were ready to move into the penthouse immediately.
And — through hard work, sacrifice and a firm belief in one another — they were able to do just that.
It’s been a magical season for the Trojans. It’s been 10 weeks of wonderment and excitement.
It’s been — for a group largely not old enough to cast a vote in this year’s election — the greatest moment of their lives.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong