By David Fong
TROY — Roughly 25 years ago, Matt Burgbacher and Dusty Beam battled side-by-side for two summers on the Troy Post 43 legion baseball team.
“Dusty was so smooth at shortstop,” Burgbacher, a Tippecanoe graduate, said of Beam, a Bethel High School graduate. “Very athletic. And he could hit, too. He was a heck of a baseball player. He was also a good friend of mine. He was probably one of my best friends on the team.”
This week, Burgbacher — now the football coach at Troy — will be trying to come up with a game plan to stop Beam’s son. Dusty’s son Cade Beam is a fullback and one of the leading rushers on the Tippecanoe football team. Friday, Troy and Tippecanoe will meet at Troy Memorial Stadium in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division opener for both teams.
“I guess if you stay in one area long enough, those things are bound to happen,” Burgbacher said. “I’m coaching against kids whose dads I played with. I figure if I stay here long enough, I may end up coaching against some of their grandkids. I think that’s one of the neat things about this game — the two communities are so close to one another, there are bound to be those types of connections.”
Truthfully, it’s just one of the many ties between the two program, which are located just a few miles apart from one another. Burgbacher played at Tippecanoe. His father Charlie — now his defensive coordinator at Troy — was the head coach at Tippecanoe for 26 yards and won more games than any other coach in school history. This winter, the elder Burgbacher will be inducted into the Tippecanoe Athletic Hall of Fame. One of Charlie’s assistants at Tippecanoe was Joel Derge, who took over as head coach when Charlie joined Matt at Troy.
All of those ties — coupled with the proximity between the two schools — make Friday’s match-up, already brimming with division title and playoff implications, just a little more intriguing than it already is.
“I think it’s a huge game for both teams,” Derge said. “I expect a big crowd. I think it’s developed into a pretty good rivalry the past few years.”
Incredibly, despite the two communities literally sharing a border with one another, the Trojans and Red Devils went decades without playing one another.
Troy and Tippecanoe first played in 1904, with Tippecanoe winning the inaugural meeting, 6-0. The two teams would play 24 times between that first meeting in 1904 and 1985. In those games, Troy won 20, Tippecanoe won two and the two teams tied twice. In the 24 games between the two schools, Troy outscored Tippecanoe by a total of 564-65, an average score of 23.5 to 2.7. Troy shut out Tippecanoe 14 times in those 24 meetings.
The two teams played every year from 1928 to 1946, with Troy winning 16 times, Tippecanoe winning once in 1939 — it’s last win against Troy — and the two teams tying twice. In those 19 consecutive meetings, the Trojans outscored the Red Devils by a combined total of 440-49, an average score of 23.1 to 2.6, with Troy shutting out Tippecanoe 11 times.
Following the 1946 meeting between the two schools, they would not play again until a single home-and-home series in 1984 and 1985. Troy won both of those games, beating Tippecanoe 27-2 in 1984 and 42-14 in 1985. After that meeting in 1985, many figured the two teams would never play again.
That all changed in 2016, when Tippecanoe joined the GWOC, ensuring the two teams would play every year. Troy won the 2016 meeting 35-7 and last year’s game 28-13. With both teams scheduled to move to the Miami Valley League beginning next year, the rivalry should continue for the foreseeable future.
Burgbacher said he thinks the rivalry is a good thing for both communities and will be glad to see it continue.
“It’s definitely a good thing for both communities — it’s turned into a pretty good rivalry,” he said. “You’ve got two communities butting up against one another. I think most of the kids know one another. I wouldn’t say they are best friends or anything like that, but there are some connections there and they know one another.
“When I played at Tipp, I feel like we always knew Troy and Piqua were the two big teams in Miami County. I think Tippecanoe is much closer to Troy know than they were when I was in high school — I wouldn’t say that’s because Troy is a lesser program than it was, but because Tippecanoe has really built itself up and grown as a program. They have raised their level of play.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong