By David Fong
TROY — When Matt Burgbacher arrived in Troy three years ago, he had visions of Troy Memorial Stadium packed with fans sending raucous cheers upward toward to the heavens as bright lights glistening up above cast luminescence upon the lush, green field below.
There’s a good chance he’ll get that wish Friday night — weather permitting — when undefeated Troy (4-0) plays host to undefeated Miamisburg (4-0). It is the first time this century an undefeated Troy team has played an undefeated opponent this late in the season.
“Absolutely, this is the type of game we want our kids to be able to play in,” the Troy football coach said. “This is fun. For us, to be able to prepare for a game like this, everything you do from Saturday through Thursday — all the planning, practicing, teaching and everything that goes into getting ready for Friday night — that’s the fun part. I told the kids we couldn’t ask for a better stage than this.
“This is the type of game that, as a player, you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Whether you are a senior, junior or sophomore, you are going to remember how you did in this game. That’s the awesome thing about a game like this. This is what high school football is about. This is what ‘Friday Night Lights’ are about. We want to be an example for our community and our fans.”
This game always was going to be a big one for both teams, which have played every year since 2010. The rivalry intensified in 2016, however, when the two teams met during the regular season and the Division II regional playoffs. Miamisburg won both of those games, defeating Troy 21-17 on a last-second touchdown pass during the regular season, then using a goalline stand in the playoffs to spark a 28-21 victory. Last year, Troy got the best of Miamisburg, jumping out to a big lead and then holding on for a 31-21 victory.
So far this season, Troy has defeated Belmont (43-8), Xenia (21-14), Turpin (29-7) and Stebbins (62-0). Miamisburg has beaten Cincinnati Northwest (49-7), Lewis Center Olentangy (24-14), Loveland (49-14) and perennial Division I state power Wayne (30-13) last week.
“It’s a little different than a typical week because of who we are playing and the rivalry that’s developed the past few years,” Burgbacher said. “It’s a crossover game, so it’s not a division game, and I don’t want to say bragging rights are on the line, but I feel like if Miamisburg beats us, it’s a feather in their cap and if we beat them, it’s a feather in our cap. We kind of knew before the season started that if we took care of our business, and they took care of their business, that this could happen and we’d be looking at a pretty big Week 5.”
Burgbacher said he wants to make sure his players understand the magnitude of the game, but not to be overwhelmed by it.
“It’s a fine line,” he said. “We don’t want to put any more pressure on our kids than what they already have as 15- to 18-year old young men. We throw all of our marbles in every week. We threw all of our marbles in last week against Stebbins. We’ll be throwing all of our marbles in this week against Miamisburg. Then we’ll throw all of our marbles in next week against Tippecanoe. This game is different, but it’s not the end of our season whether we win or lose. We hope to still have a lot of things to play for regardless of how this game ends.
“We don’t look at it as pressure. We look at it as opportunity. We like to think we’ve gotten our program to a level where we are toward the top of the state of Ohio. We think we can take another step forward if we can beat a program the caliber of Miamisburg.”
The early weather forecasts are calling for rain — and possibly even storms — Friday, but Burgbacher said he expects the stands to be full.
“The weather is something we can’t control, so we aren’t going to worry about it,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of excitement down in Miamisburg and they are going to bring a lot of fans. I know the excitement our fans have up here. This is the atmosphere we want our kids to play in and to be able to experience. I get chills just sitting here thinking about it.”
Contac t David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong