By David Fong
MIAMISBURG — For a moment, Matt Burgbacher thought he had Anderson right where he wanted it.
In a game in which it looked like the team that had the ball last would win, that’s exactly what the Troy football team had Friday night against Anderson in the Division II regional semifinals. The Trojans had the ball at the Redskin 30 with less than a minute to play, trailing 38-35.
Troy quarterback Brayden Siler dropped back to pass, saw no open receivers and tried to throw the ball out of bounds. The ball slipped out of his hand, however, keeping it in play just enough for the Redskins to pick off the pass then run out the clock to hold on for the victory in the third-straight playoff meeting between the two games.
With the win, Anderson (9-3) moves on to the regional championship game, while Troy’s season comes to an end at 10-2.
“Brayden was trying to throw the ball out of bounds and it just slipped out of his hands,” Burgbacher said. “You can’t blame him for that. He was trying to make a play. We had the ball last, which is what we wanted in a game like this. It just didn’t work out our way.”
Troy jumped out to a 28-17 halftime lead, but Anderson controlled the second half to pull out the win. The Redskins were able to slow down Trojan star running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop just enough to pull ahead, while the Trojan defense had no answers for Anderson’s high-powered offense, which outscored Troy 21-7 in the second half.
“When we went to our ‘rhino’ package, they brought in an extra defensive lineman,” Burgacher said of Anderson’s halftime adjustments. “They were able to stuff our run game. And we couldn’t get the stops we needed. Give Anderson credit. They are a great football team, which we knew coming in.”
Anderson scored the first two touchdowns of the second half to take a 31-28 lead. With 4:50 to play in the fourth quarter, however, the Redskins — who did not punt the ball all night — went for it on fourth down at midfield. Troy’s defense got the stop, giving the Trojans the ball.
On the very next play, Culp-Bishop — who did finish with 34 carries for 176 yards — finally broke free in the second half for a 50-yard touchdown, giving Troy a 35-31 lead with 4:33 to play.
That would be too much time for Anderson quarterback David Thompson, however, who finished the game completing 30-of-41 passes for 323 yards. He connected with Joey Newton on an 18-yard touchdown pass with just under 2 minutes to play, giving the Redskins the lead.
“We just couldn’t get the stop when we needed it,” Burgbacher said.
As expected, the fireworks started early in the game, as both teams put up plenty of offense through the first two quarters.
The Trojans got on the board first when Brayden Siler hooked up with Tucker Raskay on a 57-yard pass to the Anderson 4. After a Troy penalty, Culp-Bishop bulled his way into the end zone for a 9-yard score, putting the Trojans up 7-0 following Siler’s extra point.
Anderson would drive the length of the field, but the drive stalled out at the Trojan 1. Following a false start, Troy’s Sam Jackson and Austan Good trapped Joey Newton in the backfield, preventing a Redskin score.
Troy would drive to midfield, but a tipped pass resulted in an Anderson interception. Not that it much mattered, however, as two plays later, Jacob Shoop recovered a fumble at the Trojan 46. Siler completed a pair of long passes to H-back Spencer Klopfenstein, setting up Culp-Bishop’s second touchdown of the night, this time on a 4-yard run, putting the Trojans up 14-0.
The Redskins would go 81 yards on its next drive, however, scoring on quarterback David Thompson’s 1-yard run on fourth down, cutting the Trojans lead to 14-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Culp-Bishop gathered the ball in at the 15, appeared to be stopped when he ran into a scrum at the 30, but somehow broke free and outraced everyone for an 85-yard kickoff return, putting the Trojans up 21-7.
Anderson would again score on a lengthy drive that culminated in a Thompson touchdown plunge from a yard out, cutting Troy’s lead to 21-14. Troy got the ball back and Siler — who completed 7-of-8 passes for 140 yards in the first half — completed two more long passes to Klopfenstein, setting up Culp-Bishop’s third rushing touchdown of the night, putting the Trojans up 28-14. Klopfenstein had five catches for 85 yards in the first half.
Anderson got the ball back with just 40 seconds to play in the half, but four quick passes down the field put Redskin kicker Willie Johnson in position to boot a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, cutting Troy’s lead to 28-17 going into halftime.
In the end, though, Anderson had more firepower in the second half.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Burgbacher said. “They should hold their heads high. They had a great season.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong.