By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CINCINNATI — When Troy’s Navin Couch caught a Turpin kickoff early in the second quarter, he hit the deck immediately, downing the ball on the 28-yard line.
Honestly? It was the smart thing — the only thing — to do at the time.
That’s because Troy had fumbled away the previous three straight kickoff return tries, all leading to fast Spartan touchdowns as Turpin scored touchdowns on all eight of its first-half possessions in a 62-13 rout of the Trojans Friday night at Turpin High School — handing Troy its worst defeat since 2014.
“The kids did a good job of trying to execute (on the kickoff returns). That’s just a thing where, I’m the special teams coach, too, so I take the full blame for something like that,” Troy coach Dan Gress said. “When you lose any special teams turnover, let alone three, that’s pretty devastating to a football team.”
The Spartans (3-0) also cashed in a blocked punt late in the first half to take a 55-6 lead, leaving Troy (2-1) — which hadn’t committed a turnover in either of its first two games — shaking its head as Murphy’s Law kicked into effect on a night that saw a full moon out on Friday the 13th.
The game’s beginning seemed innocent and normal enough.
Turpin converted a third down and a fourth down on the game’s opening possession, going 77 yards in a fairly conventional eight-play drive. On fourth-and-2 from Troy’s 32-yard line, Reece Evans broke a 29-yard run to set up a first-and-goal at the 3. Evans took it in on the next play, and Turpin led 7-0 with 9:23 remaining in the opening quarter.
After forcing Troy into a fast three-and-out, the Spartans went right back to work, taking over at the 50. Quarterback Justin Silverstein hit Kaidan Naughton while under pressure for a 35-yard gain, and Evans scored another 3-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0 with 7:06 on the clock.
Troy went to work on its next drive, though. The Trojans marched 84 yards on 13 plays, with no one play going for more than 13 yards until the final one of the drive. Kevin Walters churned up 31 yards on four carries on the drive, and on second-and-6 from the Turpin 16, quarterback Brayden Siler — the hero of last week’s win over Butler — ran it up the middle and went 16 yards untouched to cut the lead to 14-6 with 1:45 still on the clock, and that was where the score sat when the first quarter ended.
Silverstein hit Josh Bell with a 24-yard touchdown pass to cap off a seven-play, 68-yard drive, taking a 20-6 lead with 10:58 left in the first half.
And that’s when everything went wrong.
Troy fumbled away the ensuing kick return to give the ball back to the Spartans on the Trojan 25. Two plays later, Silverstein hit Max Gundrum on a 5-yard fade in the corner of the end zone to make the score 27-6 with 10:24 left in the half. The Trojans then fumbled away the next kickoff, too, this time giving Turpin the ball on the 22. Three plays later, Silverstein hit Naughton with a 22-yard touchdown pass to make the score 34-6 with 9:58 still on the clock.
On the ensuing kickoff, Turpin hit a pooch kick short instead of kicking it deep — but Troy still fumbled that one away, too, giving the Spartans the ball on the 22 once again. On the next play, Silverstein hit Naughton over the middle with another 22-yard touchdown pass, and the score was 41-6 Turpin with 9:51 left in the half.
Couch received the next kickoff and downed the ball immediately to give the Trojan offense a chance to come back onto the field. Turpin forced a punt after a short drive, though, and Silverstein broke an 89-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the next possession to put Turpin up 48-6 with 5:12 to go in the half.
Troy pushed the ball across midfield but lost ground thanks to some penalties, forcing the Trojans to punt. The Spartans blocked the punt, though, and took over on Troy’s 18-yard line — and Evans weaved his way in on the next play again to make it 55-6 with 1:55 on the clock, and the Trojans killed the clock and went into the locker room down by 49.
Troy managed only 112 yards of offense in the first half, while Turpin had 330 — including a number of short fields to work with.
“Our offense did pretty well, but with the defense being a quick turnover and the special teams turnovers, it makes it hard for any offense to get into a rhythm,” Gress said. “And it’s not like Turpin has a slouch defense. That’s a tough situation for anyone.
“It was one of those things. The coaches were low and the boys were low, but we just said let’s just go the next play. Then the next play. That’s all we can do.”
The Trojans opened the second half with another strong drive, going 65 yards in 14 plays and chewing up most of the quarter as the second half was played under the OHSAA’s running-clock mercy rule. Sophomore Evans Jones finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, making the score 55-13 Turpin. The Spartans answered, though, going 65 yards in only three plays, with Naughton scoring on a 12-yard touchdown run that made the score 62-13 with :17 left in the third quarter.
Troy finally stopped the Turpin offense on a drive with 4:00 left in the fourth quarter, making the Spartans 9 for 10 in the game as both teams spent the final quarter substituting out their starters.
It was the Trojans’ worst loss since a 54-0 defeat at the hands of Wayne in 2014, with Troy also falling 48-0 to Trotwood in 2017.
Troy returns to Miami County in Week 4, traveling to Miami Valley League Miami Division rival Tippecanoe on Sept. 20.
“We told the boys that that’s the beautiful thing about football — we’ve got another game next week to prepare for,” Gress said. “And luckily, I know that that’s a football game that the boys are going to have fun getting ready for.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.