By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — When all was said and done and all of the bad blood — and even some of his own blood — was spent, Troy quarterback Brayden Siler still shared a hug with his old coach after the game.
He wasn’t feeling the pain of the game. He’d just led the Trojans to a win in a heated rivalry matchup.
Siler threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to give Troy a seven-point lead, and then after a Tippecanoe punt pinned the Trojans at their own 1-yard line with exactly 5:00 to play, Siler led a hard-charging Trojan drive that kept the ball out of the Red Devils’ hands for the rest of the game in a hard-fought 14-7 Troy victory in Miami Valley League Miami Division play Friday night at a raucous and packed Tipp City Park.
“We’ve been waiting for this game,” Siler said after. “I wouldn’t say there’s bad blood, but it’s just a rivalry. We’re so close, you hype it up in the week leading up to it, the months leading up to it, and we finally got to come out here and do it. You’ve just got to go out and do what you do, do what you need to do to win the game.”
Troy improved to 3-1 with the win and 2-0 in MVL Miami play, exorcising the demons of last week’s 49-point loss to Turpin the best way possible — with a win over a division rival.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved and this wasn’t a special, important week,” Troy coach Dan Gress said. “Not because of me or the coaches, but because of the boys. I want to see them succeed and have fun and enjoy atmospheres like this.”
Tippecanoe, meanwhile, fell to 1-3 and 1-1 in the MVL Miami. In the Devils’ three seasons in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, Troy — led then by now-Tippecanoe coach Matt Burgbacher — was 3-0 against Tippecanoe, winning 49-14 last year, 28-13 in 2017 and 35-7 in 2016.
For Burgbacher, seeing Siler after the game was bittersweet — but seeing how his Red Devils played made him feel great.
“We knew they would do that (put the ball in Siler’s hands at the end of the game,” Burgbacher said. “It’s a great luxury to have a kid like Brayden Siler. It was tough leaving Troy, and Siler was a big part of that. I’ve got so much respect for the kid.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. They left everything on the field. We wish we would’ve executed here and there better, played a cleaner game, but we asked them to give their teammates all they’ve got, and they did. If we play with that intensity and effort for the next six weeks, really good things are going to happen.”
Friday night, the Devils came out determined to take control.
Tippecanoe began its first possession of the game on its own 27 and marched down the field, converting a pair of first downs and driving the ball to Troy’s 8-yard line before facing a fourth-and-1, with Troy’s defense stopping a run up the middle short to force a turnover on downs after a 15-play drive by the Devils that chewed up more than half the opening quarter but didn’t result in any points.
Troy’s offense struggled to get moving, though. A third-down run by Brayden Siler appeared to get the Trojans a first down, but the play was called back on a personal foul penalty — something that became a theme for Troy in the first half. Austin Stanaford made a diving catch on a 31-yard pass by Siler to get Troy out of the shadow of the end zone, but the Devils forced a punt and took over again on their own 22.
The Devils set out on another lengthy drive from there, though, this time going 78 yards in 10 plays and finishing on the other end. Cade Beam scored on a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle, and Tippecanoe drew first blood, 7-0 with 10:07 remaining in the second quarter.
The Trojans tried to answer, converting a fourth-and-2 on Tipp’s 19-yard line with a 15-yard plunge up the middle by Kevin Walters — with the entire team pushing the pile forward an extra five yards at the play’s end to give Troy a first-and-goal from the 4. The Trojans went backwards from there, though, with a costly too-many-men penalty forcing Siler to attempt a 26-yard field goal. He pulled it wide right, though, and Tippecanoe took back over at its own 20.
Troy’s defense cut the Devils’ possession short, though, recovering a fumble on the Tippecanoe 27 — but getting backed up 15 yards after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and taking over at the 42 with less than two minutes until the break. Troy took Walters appeared to break a long run, but a holding call wiped that run out, and time continued to run down.
But with 29.1 seconds remaining, the Trojans finally broke through. Siler hooked up with Stanaford on a perfectly-timed route to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass, and Siler’s extra point evened things up at 7-7. Tippecanoe then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and took over at its own 5, taking a knee to go into the locker room with the score tied and Troy gaining some momentum.
“Give Troy credit — they executed a bit better than us,” Burgbacher said. “That turnover at the end of the first half really hurt us big time.”
The second half was the same kind of back-and-forth battle. Troy turned the ball over on downs on Tippecanoe’s 31-yard line to open the half, but the defense forced a punt and allowed the Trojans to take over on their own 30. They then marched 70 yards on 10 plays, including a pair of clutch third-down conversions, and Siler finished off the drive with a gutsy 15-yard run, stretching the ball over the goal line as he was going down to give Troy a 14-7 lead with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Tippecanoe drove to the Troy 8-yard line, but on third-and-6 Troy’s Weston Smith intercepted a pass in the end zone to kill the drive and keep the Trojans out in front. The Devils forced a quick three-and-out, but Tucker Raskay hit a 58-yard punt to drive Tippecanoe back to its own 26.
The Devils were forced to punt at midfield, and Ben Sauls hit a punt that was downed inside the 1-yard line, putting Troy’s back against the wall with 5:00 on the clock.
“I mean, that was a heck of a punt,” Siler said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better one in that situation. So we came out and just knew we had to get off the goal line.”
And that’s what the Trojans did. Siler bullied his way forward for a 5-yard gain, and then he hit Stanaford with a jump ball down the sideline for a huge 27-yard gain to get Troy out to the 33-yard line.
“We missed him a lot last year,” Siler said of Stanaford. “He hurt his ACL in basketball season and missed football, and we really missed his talents last year. But he’s been working hard and focusing on coming back, and this year he’s showing what he can do. In those situations, I know I can count on him to come up big.”
“I love it. The atmosphere is something I’ve never been in before,” Stanaford said. “After missing last year, it just made me grind harder and put myself in position to make these plays to help win football games for my team.”
From there, Siler ran for a pair of first downs as Troy maintained control of the ball to the end, pushing into Tipp territory and forcing the Devils to burn all their timeouts. And on third-and-6 from the Devil 41, Siler broke free on a 24-yard gain, weaving his way through the defense down to the 17-yard line with 39.9 seconds left, and he took a hard-earned knee from there to close out the game.
Siler finished 8 for 11 passing for 106 yards, with Stanaford grabbing three of those for 84 yards. Siler also added 158 rushing yards on 20 carries, while Kevin Walters had 89 yards on 13 carries.
“That’s has to be theme of our offense — we’re going to run it behind our strength, our O-line, and we’re going to put the ball in our best ballcarriers’ hands, and we’re going to throw it up to our best wide receivers,” Gress said. “Our players are going to be the ones that win the games — just like they did on that last drive.”
Subler finished the game 6 for 10 for 67 yards with an interception, while Beam ran for 93 yards on 23 carries to lead the Devils.
Troy finishes a three-game road trip at Greenville in Week 5, while Tippecanoe travels to West Carrollton.
“You never want to lose, but we lost to a good football team tonight that’s going to win a lot of games,” Burgbacher said. “We’ve got to regroup and regroup quickly. This is a process, and it just got sped up a little tonight. We’ve got to be ready for our next game.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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