By David Fong
TROY — For the first time in three years, the Troy football team will not be facing pass-happy Cincinnati Anderson in the first round of the playoffs.
Instead, Troy will be facing pass-happy Cincinnati Harrison at 7 p.m. Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium in the Division II regional quarterfinals.
“Harrison may not throw as much as Anderson, but they do throw the ball very efficiently,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “They throw a lot of short, quick passes. They throw a lot of screens and passes to the outside. Their passing game complements their outside run game. They are going to try to get the ball to their athletes in space. They want those guys to get the ball in space and force you to tackle them in space.
“Probably the closest comparison we could make to them as far as teams we have played in the past few years — besides Sidney, which did some of the same things — would be Anderson. We know they are going to come in here and throw the ball. They can score points in a hurry.”
The trigger man in the Wildcats’ offense is quarterback Connor Kinnett. Through nine games — full results from Harrison’s final game of the regular season against Cincinnati Northwest were not posted on the Southwest Ohio Conference website — the 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior had completed 137 of 213 passes (64.3 percent) for 2,231 yards, with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He’s also carried the ball 98 times for 254 yards and six touchdowns.
“He’s got an absolute cannon,” Burgbacher said. “He’s probably got the best arm of any quarterback I’ve coached against in quite a few years. He’s an outstanding quarterback. He can throw the ball, but he’s also big enough and athletic enough to beat you running the ball, too. He’s not just going to sit back there in the pocket. You’ve got to be aware of his ability to run the ball, too.”
The Wildcats have a host of options at receiver. Levi Tidwell leads the team with 50 catches for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns. C.J. Young has 28 receptions for 638 yards and seven scores. Jace Fette has 36 catches for 527 yards and four touchdowns. Brett Reinstatler has 20 receptions for 255 yards and two receptions.
“They have great receivers,” Burgbacher said. “They’re athletic. They are also big and tall. They can cause some mismatches.”
Harrison’s leading rusher is Cam Hering, who has 64 carries for 424 yards and five touchdowns. Jacob Rearson has 72 carries for 408 yards and three touchdowns.
“They prefer to pass the ball, but you’ve also got to be aware of their run game,” Burgbacher said. “If you get too caught up in defending the pass, they’ve got some running backs who can hurt you, too.”
Defensively, Harrison will run a 5-2 defense, playing almost entirely man-to-man in the defensive backfield.
“They run a straight 5-2,” Burgbacher said. “They are going to keep seven guys in the box and man up on the outside. In the film we’ve seen on them, we may have seen them play a zone a couple of times. They are built to stop the run and they are confident in their four defensive backs.
“They will keep seven in the box, which makes sense in the league they play in. If you look at their league, it’s a pretty run-heavy league. So their defense is built around stopping the run.”
One thing Burgbacher said he’s not worried about this week is outside distractions, as his team’s focus is squarely on Harrison. Following last week’s win over rival Piqua, a small group of players was involved in an offensive social media post that drew a large amount of public attention. Burgbacher said the matter has been settled internally.
“It was a very unfortunate situation,” he said. “It has been dealt with by the administration and myself and we are moving on. In every negative situation, there are positives you can take from it, and this was an important learning situation for everyone involved.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong