By David Fong
TROY — With so much to play for this week, Troy football coach Matt Burgbacher hopes focus is the least of his team’s concerns.
“We’ve got to stay focused on the right things,” Burgbacher said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff to play for. As long as we stay focused on the right things, we should be fine. What are those right things? We’ve got to focus on us getting better and we’ve got to focus on the task at hand. The task at hand this week is Greenville. We can’t pay attention to anything else. When we focus on that other stuff, we lose focus on what really matters. All of that other stuff is down the road.”
While a game against Troy’s historic rival is looming next week, as is a possible playoff spot the week after that, Troy (7-1, 3-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) still has plenty to play for this week as it travels to Greenville (3-5, 0-3). With a victory this week against the Green Wave, the Trojans can wrap up at least a share of the GWOC North title, along with ensuring itself a playoff berth.
“For the most part, our kids have done a good job keeping their focus this year,” Burgbacher said. “There have been teams where we’ve lost our focused this season, and that’s when some negative things have happened to us. When we aren’t focused, we don’t play real well. We’ve got to be tougher, mentally.”
Offensively, the Green Wave features a number of weapons. Quarterback Tyler Beyke has completed 71 of 139 passes for 913 yards, with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. His favorite target is Marcus Wood, who has 36 catches for 411 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Butsch has 11 receptions for 230 yards. Beyke also has 53 carries for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
“They are doing a lot of the same stuff theyv’e been doing,” Burgbacher said. “They are going to run power-pistol, power, counter, counter-boot off of power. They’ve got a good quarterback who can run or throw. They’ve got a couple of excellent receivers. Marcus Wood is someone who can hurt you in a lot of different ways. You’ve got to know where he is on offense, special teams and he also plays cornerback. He can give you fits in a lot of different ways.”
At running back, Greenville has a pair of options in Landon Eldridge and Di’Maurye Ewing. Eldridge has 138 carries for 969 yards and 14 touchdowns. Through the first five weeks of the season, he had 114 carries for 906 yards and all 14 of his touchdowns. Through the last three games, he has 24 carries for 63 yards.
Much of the workload the past three weeks has gone to Ewing. For the season, he has 59 carries for 195 yards and two scores. In the last three games, he’s had 24 carries for 89 yards and one touchdown.
“We’re not sure who we are going to see at running back — of if we are going to see both of them,” Burgbacher said. “They are both good running backs, so we’ve got to be prepared for either one.”
Defensively, Greenville is giving up 33.5 points and 375.6 yards per game.
“They will mix things up a lot on defense,” Burgbacher said. “They’ll run a 3-4 or 5-2; they’ll run a 4-2-5. They play a lot of zone in the defensive backfield, but they’ll also play some man. They like to blitz their inside linebackers.”
In recent years, Greenville has proven to be a tough place to play for the Trojans. In 2016 — when Troy finished 10-2 and Greenville went 3-7 — the game was tied 14-14 after the first quarter and the Green Wave stayed within two scores of the Trojans until late in the game. In 2014, Troy jumped out to a 10-0 lead early, but Greenville came back for a 14-10 victory.
“I don’t know what it is, but Greenville is always a tough place to play,” Burgbacher said. “Even when I was coaching at Tippecanoe, we never seemed to play very well when we went over there. A lot of that has to do with Greenville. They’ve got a lot of tough, scrappy kids. They aren’t going to give us anything. If we want to win, we are going to have to go over there and earn it.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong