By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
DAYTON — Vahsaan Ward’s 84-yard touchdown run that cut the Troy Christian football team’s lead to two at halftime showed that Ponitz could strike at any time given the chance.
So the Eagles just didn’t give the Golden Panthers any more.
Quarterback Ethan Twiss had three rushing touchdowns and Charlie Knostman added a 27-yard scoring run in the second half to give the Eagles a two-touchdown lead, then Troy Christian grinded out the final 9:12 of the game on its final possession to finish off a 26-12 victory Thursday at Welcome Stadium.
“I can’t say enough about how the kids fought. It’s all about their effort and their attitude,” Weaver said. “We have about a third of our team out with injuries right now. We have 32 kids on the team and about 12 or 13 kids injured.
“It was phenomenal. They just fought. Despite our inexperience and injuries, we just kept on plugging and executed tonight. We fought and wore them down, and I can’t say enough about the kids’ effort tonight.”
With its second straight win, Troy Christian improved to 2-4 on the season, while Ponitz fell to 0-6.
And the Eagles did so in workman-like fashion.
Three of the Eagles’ touchdowns on the night came on quarterback sneaks at the goal line, with Ethan Twiss scoring three touchdowns and finishing with 23 yards on nine carries. Charlie Knostman added 204 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and Gavin Blore had 112 yards on 24 carries as Troy Christian piled up 374 yards of total offense, 355 of it on the ground.
“That’s one of our plays that’s an attitude play for us,” Weaver said of the quarterback sneaks. “Every time I call it, the kids get fired up to run it, because it’s just a ‘man up and run the ball’ play. There’s nothing fancy about it.”
Troy Christian started fast, as Charlie Knostman intercepted a pass on Ponitz’s second play from scrimmage, setting the Eagles up at the Panther 40-yard line. Nine plays later, Twiss plowed forward on a sneak from three yards out to give the Eagles a 6-0 lead.
A Craig Montgomery sack on third down forced a fast three-and-out on the next Panther possession, and Troy Christian’s offense went right back to work, driving 76 yards in 14 plays, with Twiss finishing it off on a 1-yard sneak and Gavin Blore punching in the two-point conversion on the first play of the second quarter to make the score 14-0.
Ponitz began to fight back on its next possession, though, converting on fourth-and-2 to jump-start a 13-play, 50-yard drive. Shavonte’ McGriff finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, and the score was 14-6 with 7:42 to go in the half.
Troy Christian drove to the Ponitz 10-yard line on the ensuing possession, but a sack on fourth-and-8 gave the ball back to the Panthers, and Ward broke an 84-yard touchdown run on the next play to cut the Eagles’ lead to two at 14-12 — and another Troy Christian drive stalled at the Ponitz 4-yard line with :15 on the clock, leaving the Eagles leading by two at the half.
In the second half, the Troy Christian defense took over, holding the Panthers to minus-13 yards after the break.
“The biggest difference was, we were calling some of the same stuff that we were in the first half, but we were making the tackles and getting pressure on the quarterback, and it threw them out of what they wanted to do,” Weaver said. “We just made tackles and executed. That was it. It wasn’t anything schematically. We were just making the play.”
And the Eagles got some insurance offensively, too.
Twiss finished off a 14-play, 72-yard drive with another 1-yard touchdown on a sneak to make the score 20-12 with 1:09 left in the third quarter, and after a three-and-out, Knostman scored from 27 yards out to give Troy Christian a 14-point lead with 10:39 left in the game.
Ponitz went three-and-out again, and the Eagles took over at their own 15-yard line with 9:12 to go in the game. Over the next 14 plays, they converted four third downs and marching to the Ponitz 27-yard line before the clock finally ran out.
“Again, offensively, it really wasn’t that much different than the first half. It was just better execution,” Weaver said. “And we went into that last drive and held the ball, we gave the kids breaks to keep them fresher and shortened the game for them so they could finish the game.”
Troy Christian is scheduled to travel to 1-3 Jefferson in Week 7, although the Broncos cancelled their Week 6 game. The Eagles then return home on Oct. 18 to host Hillcrest Academy.
“Our kids were struggling a little bit at halftime, but they made a decision that they were going to go out and fight when things weren’t going their way,” Weaver said. “They made a decision to do that and went out and willed themselves to this win.
“I can’t say enough about these kids tonight, their will to win and how they played. They fought their guts out.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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