By David Fong
TROY — Between a division title and a spot in the playoffs, the Troy football team has plenty to play for the final three weeks of the season.
So does Sidney.
All of which is why Troy coach Matt Burgbacher expects yet another hype-filled contest when the Trojans (6-1, 2-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) host the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 1-1) Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium. It will be Troy’s final regular season home game.
“It’s a big week for multiple reasons,” Burgbacher said. “We’ve got a lot to play for; they’ve got a lot to play for. First and foremost, you look at the conference title. We are 2-0 and looking to stay at the top. They are 1-1 and looking to stay in contention. Then you look at every time wanting to extend its season after Week 10. If that’s something we want to do, we need to beat Sidney. If that’s something they want to do, they need to beat Troy.
“We expect a big game from a great opponent this week. We’ve got to focus on what we can do to get better. We still haven’t played that perfect game yet. We haven’t played that perfect 48 minutes we are always in pursuit of.”
Offensive, Troy will face a Sidney offense that looks very different from what it saw last season. Gone is quarterback Andre Gordon — one of the top basketball recruits in the country — and running back Isaiah Bowser, who rushed for more than 2,500 yards this season. Gordon is spending his senior year playing hoops at Huntington Prep in West Virginia, while Bowser is a freshman at Northwestern University.
“This year they are utilizing their guys on the edge more than they were last year,” Burgbacher said. “They are spreading things out more, which opens up creases inside. They still run the same offense, but what they are doing with the football is a little different. They are getting the ball outside more, which is something you can see when you look at the stats and see how many receivers they have with 200 yards receiving.”
At quarterback for the Yellow Jackets is junior Ryan Dunham, who has completed 94-of-166 passes for 1,089 yards, with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. As Burgbacher pointed out, Dunham is utilizing all of his options at receiver. Darren Taborn has 16 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns. Ratez Roberts has 23 receptions for 256 yards and one touchdown. Lathan Jones has 17 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Quamir Brown has 14 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Josiah Hudgins has 13 catches for 155 yards and four touchdowns.
At running back, senior Caleb Harris has 110 carries for 769 yards and four touchdowns.
“Last year, the focus was more on Andre and Isaiah,” Burgbacher said. “This year, they are spreading it out and using all 53 yards. They’ve got a very good running back in Caleb Harris. He runs hard, hits the hole and does a great job reading his blocks. Dunham has a good arm and is able to find his receivers and make plays. All of their wide receivers are extremely athletic. Their offensive line is one of the best they’ve had in a couple of years.”
Defensively, Sidney runs a 3-3 stack and will load up with men in the box.
“Defensively, they’ve gone back to what they used to do,” Burgbacher said. “Obviously they’ve got six guys in the box and, if there’s a tight end, they’ll bring in a seventh. They’ve got a lot of good athletes on defense. Their defensive end, Braydon Dean, leads the team in tackles and does a good job setting the edge. They’ve got good linebackers. Their defensive backs, with Hudgins, Taborn and Keith Lee, are outstanding.”
With so much on the line for both teams, Burgbacher said he expects a tough game Friday.
“We are going to treat this like we have the first seven games — we are going to throw in all of our marbles and let the chips fall where they may.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong