By David Fong
TROY — Speaking strictly from a statistical standpoint, this is the best senior class the Troy football program has seen in a generation.
With at least two games remaining this season — the Trojans are a near lock to make the playoffs for the third year in a row and get at least one playoff game — this year’s senior class already has been a part of 25 varsity football wins the past three seasons: 10 in 2016, eight last year and seven so far this year.
That’s the best three-year stretch of any Troy team since 1995-97, when Troy won 30 games in three years: nine in 1995, 11 in 1996 and 10 in 1997. Those teams featured three current members of the Trojan Athletic Hall of Fame — running back Ryan Brewer, tight end Kris Dielman and linebacker Jason Manson.
This year’s senior class was honored prior to last Friday’s win over Sidney, the last regular-season game that will be played at Troy Memorial Stadium this year (there is a possibility Troy will host a first-round playoff game with wins against Greenville and Piqua the final two games of the season).
The seniors honored included: Caillou Monroe, Sam Jackson, Jaydon Culp-Bishop, Jacob Adams, Mark Summers, Blake Burton, Kobe Feltner, Shane Shoop, Noah Young, Jacob Shoop, Garrett Jones, Zach Collett, Austin Blair, Ethan Burns, Collier O’Connor, Marshall Brueckman, Zach Niswonger, Nathan Garber, Jesse Westmeyer, Brandon Hicks, Ben Merritt, Spencer Klopfenstein and Preston Jackson.
“I can’t say enough about what this group of seniors has meant to this program,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “They are the leaders of this team. This is their team. I can’t thank them enough for what they have given to this program. This is a special group of seniors.”
Go For It
Jim Tressel may like to have a word with Burgbacher.
Tressel, the former football coach at Ohio State, once described the punt as “the most important play in football.”
It seems as though the Trojans may disagree.
Through eight games this season, the Trojans have punted a grand total of 12 times — an average of 1.5 punts per game. That’s the lowest number of punts in the 20-team Greater Western Ohio Conference. Wayne has punted 13 times this season.
For the sake of comparison, the other 19 teams in the GWOC have punted a total of 513 times this season — an average of 27.0 punt per team, or 3.3 punts per game.
Troy’s defense has forced opposing teams to punt the ball 37 times this season, an average of 4.6 punts per game.
It should come as no surprise that Troy leads the GWOC in fourth-down conversions attempts with 23 — an average of 2.9 per game. In last week’s game, the Trojans attempted a whopping eight fourth-down conversions, successfully converting on four of them. All four of Troy’s successful conversions came on drives which ended in touchdowns, including a pair of conversions on the opening drive of the game.
For the season, Troy has successfully converted nine of 23 attempts, a success rate of 39 percent. Opposing teams have gone for it on fourth down against Troy 20 times this season and converted twice, a success rate of 10 percent.
When the Trojans do punt, junior Tucker Raskay — a “Punt, Pass and Kick Competition” state champion in junior high school — is averaging 37.3 yards per punt, seventh-best in the GWOC among punters with at least 10 kicks this season.
With three new starters in the line-up to start the season, Troy’s defensive backs — affectionately nicknamed “The Outlaws” by Troy defensive backs coach Ben Merkert — were largely untested coming into the 2018 season.
Through the first seven games of the season, Troy’s defensive backs were … well, still largely untested.
Through the first seven games, Troy’s defense had faced a single-win team, a triple option team and a pair of wing-t teams — all offenses known almost exclusively for running the ball. In the first seven games, opposing teams had run the ball a total of 290 times (41.4 attempts per game), while throwing the ball a total of 77 times (11.0) times per game.
All of that changed last week against Sidney, however. The Yellow Jackets ran the ball 22 times, while throwing the ball 26 times.
Troy’s defensive backs responded to their first true test of the season by picking off six passes — three by Weston Smith and one each by Jacob Shoop, Jacob Adams and Kobe Feltner, giving all four of Troy’s starting defensive backs at least one interception on the night. Feltner is the lone returning starter from last season.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong