By David Fong
TROY — After going 9-2, earning a Division VII state ranking and qualifying for the playoffs in 2016, the Troy Christian football team suffered heavy graduation losses and slipped to 5-5 in 2017.
Of the Eagles’ five losses in 2017, four came against teams that qualified for the playoffs, while the fifth came against a team that went 7-3 and just missed qualifying for the postseason. Troy Christian’s five wins came against teams that went a combined 4-44.
Troy Christian opened the season against Dayton Christian with just one returning healthy starter off the 2016 team. That player, running back Louden Saulbeamer, had 22 carries for 131 yards and one touchdown in a 28-13 loss to Dayton Christian. Brady Clawson had nine catches for 128 yards and a 34-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Caleb Twiss, who finished the night completing 16 of 34 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles rebounded from that season-opening loss with a 45-6 win over Bradford. Troy Christian took charge in the first half thanks to some solid defensive plays and then put the game away by taking advantage of three third-quarter Railroader turnovers, with Twiss throwing four touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball to lead the Eagles to victory. Twiss finished the game 10 for 23 passing for 151 yards and four touchdowns. Saulbeamer finished the came with 11 carries for 105 yards.
Troy Christian continued its winning ways in Week 3, defeating Northridge 36-15. Saulbeamer led the Eagles with 16 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacob Edwards added 16 carries for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Twiss completed 6 of 11 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown. In his first game of the season after suffering a preseason injury, Cameron Strine had five receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown.
In Week 4, the Eagles fell to 2-2 with a 50-12 loss to Lucas. The following week, Troy Christian rebounded with a 28-7 win over McClain. In Week 6, Jacob Edwards scored both of Troy Christian’s touchdowns in a 48-13 loss to Carey.
Troy Christian would win its next two games, first defeating Jefferson 54-12 and then beating Hillcrest Academy 47-8. Against Hillcrest Academy, Troy Christian jumped out to a 33-0 halftime lead and played nearly the entire second half under a running clock.
“We came out swinging,” Troy Christian coach Ryan Jones said. “We really challenged the team to come out physical and aggressive and to put four quarters together. We felt we hadn’t been able to put all four quarters together all year, and I felt like we did that tonight. We were able to move the ball offensively, got some big stops on defense, and I was really proud of the way the guys played. All the way from our seniors to our freshman, it was a real team victory.”
Touchdown runs by Saulbeamer and Edwards put the Eagles up 14-0. Twiss than connected with Nathan Waltz on a pair of touchdown passes and Saulbeamer scored on another touchdown run to give Troy Christian the big halftime lead. In the second half, Twiss connected on touchdown passes to Strine and James Anderson.
In Week 9, Lima Central Catholic defeated Troy Christian 49-15. Edwards ran for one touchdown and threw a touchdown pass to Anderson. The Eagles closed the season with a 41-0 loss to Little Miami.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong