By David Fong
REYNOLDSBURG — It was worth the drive.
Getting up at the crack of dawn was worth it. Taking a 90-minute (at least) bus ride to the other side of Columbus was worth it. Even playing Reynoldsburg to a 0-0 tie in the first scrimmage of the preseason, then boarding the bus for another long ride home was worth it.
All of it was worth it.
Because while a scoreless scrimmage may not have been the most exciting way to spend a Saturday morning, Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher knows his team learned from the experience and came out a better football team on the other end for it.
“This is why we come here,” Burgbacher said. “We come here to play against a Division I playoff team. I feel like this is a Division I team that is going to be playing in Week 11. And week 12. And possibly week 13. That’s how good this football team is. And that’s why we make that hour and a half drive, to play against a team like this. And our kids did not back down. They were aggressive.”
Troy’s defense was definitely the star of the show against the Raiders, not allowing a score and picking off three passes, two by senior Derek McDonaugh — the second of which ended the scrimmage — and one by junior Kobe Feltner. During the first part of the scrimmage — in which each team was given 10 plays and down and distance were not kept track of — Troy’s defense allowed less than 20 yards total offense.
During the down and distance portion of the scrimmage, Reynoldsburg did advance into the Trojan red zone, thanks in large part to its ability to convert on a pair of fourth downs and a pass interference call against the Trojans. The Trojan defense stiffened, however, forcing the Raiders to turn the ball over on downs at their 15.
“I thought our defense played extremely well,” Burgbacher said. “Even the one time they were able to drive the ball on us, we didn’t let them sniff our goal line. The nice thing I saw was the way we didn’t get down on ourselves. After the pass interference call, we came back and made plays and forced them to turn the ball over.”
While McDonagh, Feltner and the rest of the Trojan defensive backs were keeping things locked down on the back end, Troy’s defense line and linebackers were wreaking havoc up front. Senior defensive lineman Joah Schricker and linebackers John Wehrkamp, Shane Shoop, Blake Burton, Spencer Klopfenstein and Zach Collett all recorded tackles for loss in the Reynoldsburg backfield.
“The play of our front seven was very stout,” Burgbacher said. “What I saw today is what I want to see out of them in weeks one through 10.”
Unfortunately for Troy’s offense, however, Reynoldsburg’s defense was every bit as up to the task as Troy’s Saturday. Troy’s varsity offense struggled to move the ball during both portions of the varsity scrimmage, including turning the ball over twice during the down-and-distance part of the scrimmage.
“We made some mistakes on offense, but those are all things we can fix,” Burgbacher said. “You have to give a lot of the credit to Reynoldsburg’s defense, too. They are an outstanding football team. They’ve got several future Division I college players on their team. We’ve got some things to work on on offense, which we’ll do. I’m not worried about our offense. We just need to keep working and keep getting better.”
Troy hosts Dunbar in its final preseason scrimmage at 7 p.m. Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium. The Trojans open the regular season Aug. 25 at Trotwood-Madison.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong