By David Fong
TROY — Matt Burgbacher was on the winning end of one of the biggest upsets in Ohio high school football history.
He’d prefer not to experience things from the other end of the spectrum.
“We don’t want the shoe to be on the other foot,” the Troy football coach said.
On Oct. 9, 2015, Burgbacher led the 1-5 Trojans — who were were 5-21 over the past three seasons at that point — into Trotwood to take on a Rams team that was ranked in the state, had established itself as a perennial state title contender and had not lost a Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division game in nearly eight years.
Troy pulled off the shocking upset, defeating Trotwood 21-20.
This week, Troy (3-0) — which is 21-5 dating back to the start of the 2016 season, has made the playoffs each of the past two years and currently is ranked No. 5 in the Division II state poll — takes on winless Stebbins (0-3). The Indians are 4-19 the past three seasons and have lost every game this season while playing under the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s “mercy rule.”
Still, though, because he remembers what his team was able to do to Trotwood three years ago, Burgbacher isn’t taking Friday night’s contest lightly.
“How the tide has turned for us,” Burgbacher said. “Now we are the team that is state ranked and taking on a team that hasn’t won a whole lot of football games recently — but nobody gave us a chance against Trotwood, and we saw what happened. One thing you notice on film is how hard the Stebbins kids play. They give great effort. They fly to the ball on defense and on offense they’ve got guys who sustain their blocks.
“If they beat us, it would probably be one of the biggest wins in their history. When you are dealing with 15- to 18-year-old young men, you do worry that their focus could be on other things. We want to be sure we are focusing on the task at hand. We don’t let the kids look at the big picture. When you look at the big picture, there are too many disastrous things that can happen. When you keep a tunnel vision and are only worried about what’s in front of you, that’s when great things happen.”
Stebbins offense is led by quarterback Austin Womack, who has completed 29-of-65 passes for 482 yards, with four touchdowns and six interceptions. The Indians’ leading receiver is Dylan Long, who has nine receptions for 186 yards and a touchdown. Kelby Cox has six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Andre Snow has six receptions for 83 yards and two scores. The team’s leading rusher is Brandon Martin, who has 30 carries for 98 yards this season.
“Their quarterback can throw the ball,” Burgbacher said. “They have a pass play called 67 percent of the time. They’ve got a nice, shifty running back. He’s not the biggest kid, but obviously he’s got some speed. They’ve got a very good group of receivers who all have great speed.
“We can’t give up the big plays; they will run a lot of vertical routes. We’ve got to make sure we get pressure on the quarterback. We can’t let him sit back there and pick is apart.”
Defensively, Devin Hasty leads the team with 27 tackles.
“Defensively, they run a 4-4,” Burgbacher said. “They don’t do a whole lot of stunting. Their linebackers are their leading tacklers. They want their defensive linemen to eat up blockers and let their linebackers run to the football. Their two outside linebackers, their two inside linebackers and their free safety are all their leading tacklers.”
Burgbacher reiterated the key for his team this week will be maintaining its focus.
“We’ve talked about that 2015 Trotwood game all week,” Burgbacher said. “Only one of our kids, Sammy Jackson, was on varsity for that game. He was a freshman. It’s definitely been something we’ve been emphasizing all week. Anything can happen when you are dealing with kids. We want to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong