By David Fong
TROY — Zach Boyer took last week personally.
And, with the lights shining bright on a Thursday night and the eyes of the Dayton area on the Troy football team’s televised game, the senior defensive back/wide receiver was bound and determined to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Six days after an embarrassing 48-0 loss to Trotwood-Madison in the season opener, Boyer picked off a pair of passes — both of which led to touchdowns by the offense — and caught a touchdown pass in the Trojans’ 28-6 against Xenia Thursday at Troy Memorial Stadium. The game was broadcast live on local television.
“Last week brought us down — we knew we were better than that,” Boyer said. “We had to show everyone what real Troy football was. We wanted to show everyone in Miami County what we really were. We weren’t going to let last week haunt us anymore.”
With the win, Troy improved to 1-1, while Xenia fell to 0-2.
Troy forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and took over near midfield to start the game, but a drive stalled deep in Xenia territory and the Trojans turned the ball over on downs.
No that it much mattered, however, as two plays later, Boyer intercepted the first of his two passes, picking off Xenia quarterback Johnny Shampton Jr. and returning it to the Buccaneer 32. On the very next play, junior running back Jayden Culp-Bishop — filling in for injured starter Shane Shoop — broke free on a 32-yard touchdown run. Brayden Siler booted the extra point, giving Troy a 7-0 lead, its first of the season.
After the two teams exchanged punts, Xenia got the ball moving on its lone extended drive of the first half. Long runs by Shampton and Corey Burnette Jr. helped the Buccaneers get the ball to the Trojan 26. On second down, however, Boyer intercepted his second pass of the half, picking off a pass in the Trojan end zone.
Other than that drive, however, Troy’s defense completely shut down Xenia’s triple-option offense, forcing nine plays that went for negative yards in the first half. Star receiver Meechi Harris was held without a reception in the first half. Following Boyer’s second interception, Troy drove the length of the field for its second score. Harris had one catch for 2 yards the entire game.
“We knew where Meechi Harris was every play,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “All 11 guys — even our noseguard — knew where was on every play.”
A 43-yard pass from Sam Coleman to Tucker Raskay and an 18-yard run by Culp-Bishop pushed the ball to the Bucs’ 10. The drive appeared on the verge of stalling, however, as the Trojans faced fourth-and-six on the Xenia 12. Coleman dropped back to pass and was pressured, but escaped the pocket and scampered 12 yards for a touchdown, putting the Trojans up 14-0.
“Our offense was very efficient in the first half,” Burgbacher said. “Things slowed down a little in the second half, but it didn’t matter because of the way our defense was playing.”
Just before halftime, Boyer got his hands on the ball a third time — this time on offense — as Coleman hooked up with him on a crossing route on fourth down. Boyer split the Buccaneer defense right down the middle, streaking into the end zone to give Troy a 21-0 lead heading into halftime.
Troy may have kept Harris in check on offense, but he made his presence known on defense to start the second half. On the second play of the third quarter, he picked off a Coleman pass, returning it to the Troy 18-yard line. On the very next play, Sincere Wells took the ball around the right side of the line, rumbling all the way to the end zone. Troy blocked the extra kick, but Xenia had cut the Trojans’ lead to 21-6.
The Buccaneers nearly pulled to within a score on their next drive. After stopping a Troy drive at their own 26, Xenia drove nearly the length of the field while being aided by a horse collar, a facemask and a pass interference penalty. The Bucs drove down to the Troy 5-yard line, buy the Trojan defense stiffened. On fourth down, Xenia tried to pitch the ball wide, but the pitch went over the intended ballcarrier’s head and Troy took over at its own 24.
That would be the last serious threat Xenia would mount on the night, as Troy’s defense shut down the Buccaneers the rest of the way. Troy’s defense held the Buccaneers to just 147 yards total offense and just 2 yards passing for the entire game. Aside from the one long drive, Troy’s defense stifled Xenia’s triple option.
“This was big for our team,” said Troy310-pound noseguard Gage Forsythe, who spent much of the night in the Xenia backfield blowing up plays. “We were focused on this week. We left last week behind us,”
The Trojans would ice the game late on a 16-yard touchdown run by Sam Jackson, who led the Trojans in rushing.
“This was big for our kids,” Burgbacher said. “It was important for us to get back out here after last week and play well. I’m proud of the way these kids bounced back. There’s still a lot of things we can work on, but I’m proud of the way we played. This was important for our team.”
In fact, it was personal.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong