By David Fong
When Matt Burgbacher arrived at Troy in 2015, he knew teams couldn’t wait to play his football team.
Three years, two Greater Western Ohio Conference North titles and two playoff appearances later, he know teams still can’t wait to play the Trojans — although for very different reasons.
“When I first came to Troy, I think teams had us circled on their calendar because they felt like that was a game they knew they were going to win,” Burgbacher said. “Now they circle the date for a different reason. They know we have won the last two division titles and they want to beat us. We know every single week, we are going to get every team’s best shot — and that’s OK, because we’d rather have teams looking to play us for that reason than plays us for the other reason.”
Burgbacher said he expects Butler (4-2, 1-0 in the GWOC North) to be primed and ready Friday when Troy (5-1, 1-0) travels to Vandalia to take on the Aviators.
“They always plays us tough, and this year will be no different,” Burgbacher said. “There’s a reason why they are 4-2; they’ve got a good football team. It’s going to be a tough game for us, and we expect that going in. They’ve got a great student section. We expect a great crowd. They are 4-2 and ranked No. 3 in their region. We are both 1-0 in the GWOC North. They’ve got a lot to play for. We’ve got a lot to play for. It’s going to be a great high school football game, for sure.”
Troy must figure out a way to slow down Butler quarterback Mason Motter. A three-year starter, Motter has completed 54-of-102 passes (52.9 percent) for 732 yards, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also carried the ball 71 times for 298 yards and three touchdowns — an increased workload in the run game over the last two seasons. Last year he had 25 carries for minus-23 yards. The year before, he had 42 carries for 50 yards.
“The last couple of years he’s proven he can throw the ball — but one thing he’s really improved on, and one thing they are utilizing more, is him in the run game,” Burgbacher said. “They will run the zone, where he has the option to hand off, keep the ball or throw it. They run a lot of RPOs (run-pass option), so you can’t really focus on one thing with him. He can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
The Aviators’ leading rusher is Ryan Martin, who has 105 carries for 670 yards and 10 touchdowns. The leading receiver is Bryant Johnson, who has 12 catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Blake Ross has 13 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Wilson has 11 receptions for 150 yards and four touchdowns.
“They’ve got a lot of different weapons,” Burgbacher said. “They like to get you going one way with Motter, then hit you with Martin going the other way. So you’ve got to be disciplined. They’ve got a lot of big, fast receivers who are capable of making plays downfield. Again, you can’t really just focus on one thing with them, because they can beat you a lot of different ways.”
Defensively, the Aviators run a 4-2-5 defense. Their leading tacklers are inside linebackers Nicholas Coyle (54 tackles, two sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries) and Mike Masters (38 tackles).
“Their defensive linemen are in charge of occupying the offensive linemen and letting their linebackers make plays,” Burgbacher said. “Those two inside linebackers they have are very good football players. The other thing you notice is their defensive backs are very impressive in the run game. They are very aggressive. They fly to the football and do a good job of redirecting things.”
Taking all of that into consideration, Burgbacher said he expects a slugfest Friday night.
“We are going to have to come out and execute if we want to win the game,” he said. “They are a very good football team and if we don’t execute, we are going to be in for a long night.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong