By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Sometimes when you’re away from home for three weeks, you come home to a mess.
And after an incredibly sloppy first half Friday night, the Troy football team cleaned some things up.
The Trojans, maybe not-so-fresh from a lengthy three-game road trip, won their third straight Friday night at Troy Memorial Stadium, running off 28 unanswered points to kick off the second half to help seal a 42-7 Miami Valley League crossover victory over Stebbins on homecoming night.
Troy, which improved to 5-1 overall and 4-0 in the MVL Miami Division with the win, went into the locker room at halftime with a seven-point lead despite turning the ball over a whopping four times in the opening half. The Trojans piled up 280 total yards in the half but only finished off a pair of drives, with Stebbins picking off a pair of passes and then forcing two more turnovers on fumbles — one of them after Troy had driven to the Indian 5-yard line.
“That first half was definitely not to the level that we want to play at,” Troy coach Dan Gress said. “And if we don’t play at that level, we’re not going to accomplish the goals we want to this year. But that’s the beauty of football — as a team and coaching staff, we have a choice to make, to come back, correct those mistakes and build on the positives.
“We said some things at halftime, and one was that no one else is going to do it for you. You have to take it yourself. And they came out and responded.”
“We’ve got to improve on that, that’s our biggest thing,” Siler said of the slow start. “In the weeks moving forward, specifically me, I can’t throw balls behind receivers. Those are big mistakes that can’t happen. I’ve got to come out determined to put out the best effort I can.”
In the end, though, the Trojans finished with 550 yards of total offense, 384 of it coming on the ground. Senior running back Kevin Walters had a monster game, finishing with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries to lead the way.
“It feels great,” Walters said. “I just think about all the setbacks, but at the end of the day, you can’t stop. I just trust in the Lord.”
Stebbins’ Daniel Bowman stepped in front of a Brayden Siler pass on the opening possession of the game, but the Trojans forced a fumble and Weston Smith recovered to give it right back. Another interception by Bowman killed Troy’s next possession before it got started, but the defense forced a punt to give Troy yet another shot from their own 16.
This time, the Trojans began to move. A pair of solid runs by Kevin Walters and a quick out from Siler to A.J. Heuker got things going, and back-to-back screen passes to Walters put Troy on the Stebbins 27. A pair of Walters runs gave Troy first-and-goal from the 10, but a fumble at the 5-yard line stopped the drive.
After forcing another punt, Troy took over at its own 42 and went 58 yards on seven plays, with Walters bursting through a huge hole in the middle of the line on a 10-yard touchdown run to give Troy a 7-0 lead with 8:56 left in the second quarter.
Troy built onto that momentum on its next possession. After a quick three-and-out, Siler hit Austin Stanaford in stride down the sideline on a 47-yard touchdown pass, giving the Trojans a 14-0 lead with 6:08 until halftime.
Stebbins’ Marvelous Rutledge broke a 46-yard run on the Indians’ next possession, setting up a first-and-goal from Troy’s 3-yard line. The defense held, though, sacking Stebbins quarterback Nate Keller on fourth-and-goal from the 3 to force a turnover on downs. But the Indians forced a fumble, though, and Bowman recovered at the Troy 43 to give Stebbins one more shot before halftime.
The Indians had first-and-goal from the 3 again, only this time they converted as Keller sent an option pitch to Rutledge for a 10-yard touchdown run to cut the Trojans’ lead to 14-7 at halftime.
After a fourth-down stop on defense to kick off the third, Troy went 63 yards in only five plays, with Siler scoring on a 16-yard run to give the Trojans some breathing room at 21-7 with 8:54 left in the third. And after a fast three-and-out, Siler finished off a brief 48-yard drive by scoring on a 14-yard run, making it 28-7 with 4:38 left in the quarter.
Stebbins then punted and pinned Troy at its own 12-yard line, but — aided by a pair of pass interference penalties on the Indians — went 88 yards in eight plays, scoring on the first play of the final quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Siler to Weston Smith to make it 35-7.
The Indians knocked on Troy’s goal line one final time with a first-and-goal from the 4, but another fourth-down sack gave Troy the ball on its own 7. Walters used three carries to go those 93 yards, breaking a season-long 72-yard run and then scoring on an 11-yard run to make it 42-7 with 9:25 left in the game and turn on the running clock — the first time this season Troy has led an opponent by more than 30 points to kick in the OHSAA mercy rule. Stanaford then intercepted a pass by Keller, and the clock wound down from there.
“When I broke through (on the 72-yard run), I was like ‘oh crap,’ Walters said with a laugh. “I knew there was someone behind me, and I was trying to figure out how far.”
“With the type of running back we have in Kevin, and him sharing the backfield with a heck of a runner in Brayden, it was great to see him hit those 10, 15, 20-yarders and also break that 72-yarder,” Gress said of Walters. “He’s been so close to breaking one of those all year. He’s just the type of kid that does nothing but show up every day and work his butt off. And I’m very proud also of Brayden. We had some mistakes early in the first half, but not one time did I think he wasn’t going to respond. We knew he’d still be that leader he is.”
Siler bounced back from the two early interceptions to go 9 for 18 passing for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and he added 78 rushing yards and two more scores.
“When adversity strikes, you’ve got to be stronger,” Siler said. “You’ve got to be mentally stronger, physically stronger, and you’ve got to overcome it. I think we’re doing that pretty well right now — but it’d be nice to not have that adversity in the first place.”
“One of our main mottos this year is ‘who are you going to be when the going gets tough?’” Gress said. “It’s always good to respond to adversity.”
Troy travels to Sidney in Week 7.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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