The world did not come to an end Friday night.
And neither did the Troy football team’s playoff hopes.
Nor did the Trojans’ goal of winning a third straight Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title.
Troy (4-1) lost exactly two things Friday night in a 31-14 loss to Miamisburg (5-0) Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium — a football game and the opportunity to become the first Trojan team to finish the regular season undefeated since 1997.
Yes, Friday’s loss was a little shocking in its totality, not so much because Miamisburg isn’t a good team — the Vikings are every bit as good as advertised and may be the best Division I team in the Dayton area — but because Troy made mistakes it simply did not make the first four weeks of the season.
But in the end, the Trojans still have much to play for — and it all begins this week as Troy opens defense of its back-to-back GWOC North titles with five division games to close the second half of the season. Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said he plans on handling Troy’s setback Friday in much the same way he’s handled all of Troy’s victories prior to Friday.
“We are going to do what we do every week, whether we win or lose,” he said. “We are going to watch the film from this game, and then it’s going to be over and done with. Once that film is over, we’re done with this game. We’ve got to move on to Tippecanoe.”
In some ways, the loss to Miamisburg may serve as medicine for the Trojans — unpleasant to the palate, but ultimately it will make them stronger in the long run. When things are going well — and for four weeks, it seemed as if the Trojans could do no wrong — its can be tough to recognize small mistakes, as they tend to get glossed over by stellar play elsewhere.
You may not notice a drip in a mansion faucet — until it gets worse and floods the second floor.
Miamisburg proved the Trojans are not without their faults and weaknesses. The Vikings exposed them in front of several thousand people under the Troy Memorial Stadium lights. Things that could easily be overlooked in a 62-0 win over Stebbins could be ignored in a loss to Miamisburg. Now that these small cracks have been widened, it gives the players and coaches the opportunity to get them fixed.
“We’ll get back to work on Monday,” Burgbacher said. “There’s a lot of things we can work on. I still believe this is a good football team. Once we are able to fix some of the mistakes we made (against Miamisburg), hopefully we can be an even better football team.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the final five games of the season — which will determine if the Trojans can win a third division title in a row and make the playoffs again — won’t be easy.
This year, the road to the GWOC North may be as tough as it ever has been. For the first time in the past three years — and in recent memory, for that matter — every North team is coming out of non-conference and crossover play with winning records. Troy is at the top at 4-1, but Tippecanoe, Butler, Sidney, Greenville and Piqua all are 3-2 and all are looking to knock off the two-time champion.
“We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot,” Burgbacher said. “They target is on our backs, because we’ve won the past two titles. When you look at the rest of the games on our schedule, everyone has to beat us if they want to win the GWOC North and make the playoffs. We can’t afford to have any more letdowns the rest of the season.
“These next five games are going to make or break our season and determine what kind of team we are and how we will be remembered. Did we want to win this game against Miamisburg? Of course we did. We want to win every time we play. Does it sting? Yes, and it should sting, because it means the kids care. But ultimately, we knew going into this game we wouldn’t win a state title if we beat Miamisburg and we wouldn’t lose a state title if we lost to them. The next five weeks are the most important to our season.”
Despite Friday’s loss, Burgbacher still believes his team can do just that. In the moments immediately following the final whistle, he had a message for his team.
“A team’s true character shows in the face of adversity,” he told them as the huddled around him. “We are about to find out what this team is made of. We are going to find out what we are made of individually. I’m 99 percent certain I already know. I wouldn’t trade this group of kids for anyone else out there. Prove me right.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong