By David Fong
TROY — Troy has a pretty good idea what Tippecanoe is going to try to do Friday.
Tippecanoe has a pretty good idea what Troy hopes to accomplish Friday.
With so much familiarity between two coaching staffs and two groups of players at two schools located just a few miles apart from one another, the team that comes out on top when Troy (4-1) and Tippecanoe (3-2) play Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium won’t necessarily be the one with the best scouting report or game plan — but rather the one that executes those the best.
“I think it’s all going to come down to execution,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “As familiar as these two programs are, I don’t think there are going to be a whole lot of surprises. I think both teams have a pretty good idea of what the other team wants to do — it’s just a matter of which team is able to execute and accomplish those things.”
That certainly was the difference last year when Tippecanoe jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead, but Troy took advantage of three turnovers and a short Tippecanoe punt to score all four of its second-half touchdowns in a 28-13 victory.
“It all comes down to execution,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge said. “Last year we turned the ball over too many times in the second half. Our offensive line didn’t block as well in the second half as they did in the first half. They put the ball in the end zone and we settled for field goals. They executed better than we did and they won the game.”
Offensively, Troy got off to a slow start against the Red Devils last year, something the Trojans are hoping to avoid this week in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division opener for both schools.
The Trojans run a well-balanced spread offense. Junior quarterback Brayden Siler has completed 60-of-88 passes for 932 yards, with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Troy’s leading receiver is tight end Spencer Klopfenstein, who has 15 catches for 211 yards. Shane Shoop has nine catches for 189 yards and four touchdowns, Weston Smith has 10 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown and Caillou Monroe has eight catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Troy’s leading rusher is Jaydon Culp-Bishop, who has 99 carries for 712 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“They can attack you in a lot of different ways,” Derge said. “They can attack you horizontally and vertically. They do a nice job mixing up the run and pass. Their offensive coordinator does a fabulous job calling plays. They don’t confuse they kids and they don’t over-complicate things.
“They’ve got explosive players all over the field. Culp-Bishop is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. Spencer does a good job giving them a big target. They’ve got a great group of kids who can really keep you off-balance.”
Tippecanoe runs a 5-2 defense similar to the one that Xenia used to give Troy problems in Week 2. The Red Devils are anchored by inside linebackers Ben Ambos and Mason Gostomsky. Ambos leads the team with 36 tackles, while Gostomsky has 28 tackles.
“What they do is similar to what Xenia did, but they also mix things up some,” Bugbacher said. “They have multiple ways they can line up to keep your guessing. They’ve got guys who can get to the edge and set the edge. You’re not going to see their defensive linemen rack up a lot of stats, but that’s not necessarily their job. They won’t make a ton of tackles because their job is to eat up blockers so their linebackers can make plays.”
Tippecanoe’s wing-t offense is led by senior Josh Burritt, who has 44 carries for 566 yards — 12.9 yards per carry — and five touchdowns. Fullback Cade Beam has 69 carries for 351 yards and seven touchdowns. Jackson Yeager has 34 carries for 191 yards. Ben Ambos has 13 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Troy Taylor has completed 20-of-35 passes for 331 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Burritt leads the team in receiving with six catches for 160 yards and three touchdown.
“The thing about the wing-t is they can run three or four different plays out of one set,” Burgbacher said. “Out of one set, they can run the jet, they can run guard-trip, they can run waggle or they can run counter criss-cross. They can run multiple things from the same look.
“Most of what they run is based off the jet — that’s what they hang their hat on. They’ve got great athletes like Burritt, Yeager and Ambos who can get to the edge. But then if you get too worried about them getting to the edge, Cade Beam is a very good fullback. He is not the same player he was at the beginning of the year. He looks like a totally different running back. He’s big and he’s strong and he runs well.”
Burgbacher said Tippecanoe’s passing game also has improved as the year has progressed.
“They are throwing a little more than they have in the past three years,” he said. “Troy Taylor fits into the same category as Beam — he began the season as an inexperienced quarterback, but you can really see his growth as the season has gone along. He’s not the same quarterback he was at the beginning of the season.”
Troy’s defense is anchored by its linebackers, seniors Sam Jackson, Klopfenstein and Zach Collett on the outside and seniors Blake Burton and Shoop on the inside.
“They may be the hardest-hitting defense I’ve seen on film so far,” Derge said. “They rally to the football. Their defensive ends and outside linebackers get back inside. Their inside linebackers play downhill. Their defensive backs all pursue to the ball.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong