By David Fong
TROY — In 2016, the Troy football team engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in program history, going from 2-8 and last place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division the previous year to a 10-2 record, its first conference title in 16 years and a spot in the Division II playoffs.
Last year, the Trojans set out to prove 2016 wasn’t a fluke. After starting the season 1-2, that proposition was on shaky ground. The Trojans would recover, however, winning their final seven regular season games, another GWOC North title and making another playoff appearance.
“It was a great season,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said following Troy’s final game of 2017. “A lot of people gave up on this team when we were 1-2, but they never gave up on themselves. To me, that’s going to be the legacy they leave behind. This group never quit. They fought to the very end.”
Troy’s season got off to perhaps the worst start possible in a 48-0 loss to Trotwood-Madison. The Rams — who would finish the season 15-0 and capture the Division III state title — jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never really looked back from there. Troy would turn the ball over three times and were outgained 447-146 yards.
The Trojans rebounded the following week, however, with a 28-6 win over Xenia in a “Thursday Night Lights” contest. In that game, Sam Coleman threw for one touchdown pass — a 25-yard toss to Zach Boyer — while also rushing for one score. Jaydon Culp-Bishop and Sam Jackson also added touchdown runs. Defensively, Boyer recorded a pair of interceptions, while Derek McDonagh forced and recovered a fumble, Gage Forsythe forced a fumble and John Wehrkamp recovered a fumble.
The following week, the Trojans fell to 1-2 with a 30-22 loss to Bellefontaine. Troy fell behind 16-0 early and never could catch up the rest of the night. The brightest spot of the evening, however, was the emergence of Culp-Bishop at running back. He opened the second half with a 73-yard touchdown run and finished with 27 carries for 211 yards. Jackson added a pair of touchdown runs.
Troy evened its record at 2-2 the next week with a 38-6 win over Fairborn. Culp-Bishop had another monster game, carrying the ball 22 times for 194 yards and a touchdown. Coleman completed 9-of-17 passes for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one to Matt McGillivary and one to Spencer Klopfenstein. Shane Shoop also added a touchdown run. On defense, Klopfenstein and McDonagh both intercepted passes; McDonagh returned his 48 yards for a touchdown. On special teams, Shoop and Wehrkamp both blocked both. Both blocks led to touchdowns.
In Week 5, Troy faced Miamisburg, the team that had handed Troy its only two losses in 2016 — one during the regular season and one in the Division II regional semifinals. Troy’s defense completely shut down Miamisburg vaunted wing-t rushing attack, holding the Vikings to just 68 yards on the ground. There was no stopping Troy’s rushing attack, however, as Culp-Bishop had 33 carries for 241 yards and a score. Jackson added two rushing touchdowns. Coleman completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Klopfenstein. On defense, Boyer recorded an interception to set up Troy’s first score of the night.
“Absolutely, people thought we were done for,” Burgbacher said after the game, in reference to the first three weeks of the season. “Then after we lost the Bellefontaine game, everyone thought this would be a rebuilding year for Troy. But we’ve kept stressing to the kids that this is a process. You’ve got to go 1-0 every single day. You’e got to win the day. Our assistant coaches did a great job this week getting our kids ready for this game. I can’t give them enough credit.”
Troy opened the GWOC North play against county rival Tippecanoe. The Trojans trailed 13-0 at the half, but came storming back in the final two quarters for a 28-13 victory. Three of Troy’s scores were set up bu turnovers, while another came when the defense forced the Red Devils to punt from deep within their own territory. Jackson finished with three rushing touchdown and an interception on defense. Shoop also had a touchdown run. McDonagh and Boyer had interceptions, while Brayden Siler had a fumble recovery.
In Week 7, Troy kept its momentum rolling with a 36-20 win over Butler. Culp-Bishop had 26 carries for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Coleman and Jackson had touchdown runs. Siler kicked a field goal. Wehrkamp had a forced fumble and recovery, Christian Nation forced a fumble and Joah Schrickler had a fumble recovery. Butler had pulled close late, but McGillvary’s 64-yard punt return helped set of Troy’s final score to ice the game.
The win over Butler set up a titanic clash with Sidney in Week 8. The Yellow Jackets came into the game undefeated and ranked fourth in the state. Sidney running back Isaiah Bowser — who would finish the season with more than 2,600 rushing yards — had not not rushed for less than 186 yards in any of the Yellow Jackets’ previous seven games.
That night, however, Troy’s defense held Bowser to 68 yards and no scores on 24 carries. In his final two years, Bowser failed to rush for 100 yards or more in only two games — both of which were against Troy. Culp-Bishop, meanwhile, had 33 carries for 229 yards, including a school-record-tying 99 yard touchdown run. Jackson had three touchdown runs. Shoop returned a kickoff 76 yards for a score and added a touchdown on defense when Schricker stripped Sidney quarterback Andre Gordon deep in his own territory and Shoop recovered the ball in Sidney’s end zone.
Boyer and Wehrkamp also recovered fumbles, while Blake Burton forced a fumble. McDonagh and Jackson had interceptions and Garrett Jones blocked a punt as the Trojans rolled to a 48-21 victory.
In Week 9, Troy scored all of its points before halftime in a 42-0 win over Greenville. Coleman had a career night, completing 14-of-16 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to McGillivary, who had five catches for 84 yards. Culp-Bishop had 232 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns, while Jackson and Coleman added touchdown runs. Boyer added an interception defense.
In the final week of the regular season, Troy took on rival Piqua in the 133rd meeting between the two schools. On a night in which it rained hours before the game, the duration of the game and several hours after the game ended, Troy’s defense shut down Piqua’s offense in a 32-6 victory.
The Trojans defense held Piqua’s offense to just nine first down and 118 yards in total offense. Schricker recovered a fumble for a touchdowns. Jones forced and recovered a fumble and Wehrkamp and Boyer both recovered fumbles. On offense, Culp-Bishop had 33 carries for 254 yards and a touchdown. Jackson had three touchdown runs.
“Defense wins championships, offense scores points,” Burgbacher said. “Tonight, our defense won a championship. Piqua is a good football team. Our defense came out and played great. What an incredible effort.”
The win over Piqua gave Troy an outright GWOC North title and another trip to the playoffs.
In the regional quarterfinals, Cincinnati Anderson jumped all over the Trojans early and cruised to a 33-0 win. Still, though, it couldn’t take away from what Troy was able to accomplish in 2017.
“I’m going to miss these guys,” Burgbacher said of the 15 graduating seniors. “They’ve definitely left their mark on this program. They are going to be remembered for a long time to come. They helped turn this program around.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong