By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The Troy football team’s offense — ranked No. 1 in the Miami Valley League in yardage and tied for first in points scored — has understandably gotten lots of love this season.
But the Trojan defense is on an impressive run, as well.
The Troy defense held Sidney to an anemic 144 yards of total offense and helped wrap up Friday night’s rain-soaked 19-7 victory on the road — not only the team’s fourth straight victory, but also the fourth straight game in which the Trojans have only allowed seven points.
“The defense, we couldn’t be happier with how they showed up and played Friday night,” Troy coach Dan Gress said. “And against, really a potent Sidney offense that has really started coming around the last couple games.”
The Yellow Jackets entered the night boasting the leading rusher in the MVL, E.J. Davis — and Troy knew he had to be the focal point defensively. And the Trojans did a number on Davis, holding him to only 51 yards on 15 carries, with his longest run being only for 13 yards.
“Obviously going into that game, E.J. Davis, the league’s leading rusher, was our No. 1 goal,” Gress said. “We wanted to shut down the run and specifically shut down Davis. We knew that would be a big key for the defense if we wanted to have any success.”
And in each area of the defense, the Trojans had someone step up.
“Austan Good, at defensive end, had 11 tackles and one sack,” Gress said. “He has (had a lot of big games this season). Coming into the year, he was our only returning senior defensive starter. And a linebacker that is really coming along is Evan Jones, our weak-side linebacker. Being only a sophomore, you can just see him getting better each day. The big improvement we see is his eyes, reading and filling and flying to the ball in open space. He has the athletic ability, and he’s really getting that confidence now to go make those plays in the open field.
“And Weston Smith, in the secondary, had another interception. He’s having a big senior year, and when he’s in the game, he brings a certain amount of confidence to everyone else. Our defensive backs play with a different level of confidence when he’s out on the field with them.”
• Paving the Way
Troy’s defense did such a number on Davis that it knocked him out of the MVL lead in rushing yardage, with Troy senior Kevin Walters taking his place with a 216-yard, two-touchdown night — his second 200-plus-yard game in a row, giving him 930 rushing yards on the season.
In addition, quarterback Brayden Siler rushed for 90 yards Friday night as Troy piled up 295 yards on the ground, giving him 718 rushing yards on the year, putting him in second in the MVL Miami Division behind teammate Walters and giving him a shot at being the first Troy quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season. With 673 passing yards, he also has a chance to be the first Troy quarterback to both rush and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.
And one big — in the literal sense — group is helping make all of that happen: the offensive line.
“Going into a season, we don’t really have goals stat-wise so far as being league leaders or anything like that. But it is nice to see,” Gress said. “We wanted to be a dominant running team — and unfortunately, they don’t really hold stats for our offensive linemen. Without the O-line, we don’t have that dominant run game. It all starts with them.
“The reason we are having this success is because of our O-line’s work ethic. The type of work they put in day in and day out shows up on Friday night.”
All told, the Trojans have the top rushing offense in the MVL Miami Division with 253.4 yards per game, and the No. 2 rushing offense in the overall MVL behind only Xenia’s 297 yards per game.
But no play in Friday night’s game personified the Trojans’ team, everybody-does-their-part mentality than Walters’ second touchdown of the night to ice the win. On fourth-and-4 from Sidney’s 5-yard line, Walters took a handoff up the middle and ran into a pile-up at roughly the 3-yard line. Every Trojan jumped in behind Walters in the pile and helped push the whole thing forward until it eventually crossed the goal line to make the score 19-7.
“Anytime a back has a night like Walters had, the offensive line is doing something right,” Gress said. “Because they’re consistently, snap after snap, taking it to the defensive line. And with Kevin’s second touchdown to seal the game, that is Troy Trojan football. That’s team football above all else, when you have 10 other guys pushing on the pile to get it across.”
• Up Next
Next up for the Trojans is a Week 8 MVL crossover matchup against the Fairborn Skyhawks, a 3-4 team coming off of an impressive 39-0 blowout win over Butler.
“Fairborn is one of those teams that keeps getting more and more confident and playing at a higher and higher level each week,” Gress said. “Offensively, they have one of the best quarterbacks in the MVL (Garison Secrest) who has maybe the best arm in the MVL. And then at running back and inside linebacker, they have one of the best players in the MVL (Hunter Warner). Our defense has its work cut out for it this week. They’ll line up in a wing-T, and then they’ll drop back in shotgun and spread you out and throw it around. It’s pretty hard to defend both of them, and they have the talent and are well coached to do both.
“And defensively, they’re primarily a 5-2 slanting defense that has two of the league’s top linebackers. They’re not going to be outflanked or out of position, and they let their linebackers go out and make plays.”
Troy enters the week 6-1 and 5-0 in the Miami Division, with a road game at Valley Division leader Xenia due up in Week 9 and rival Piqua coming to Troy to close the regular season, two huge games that will decide the league championship as the Trojans take aim at a fourth straight division title. The Trojans also sit in third place in the Division II, Region 7 postseason standings, controlling their own destiny with a chance to make the playoffs for the fourth straight time — which would be a first for the program.
And Gress is making sure his Troy team keeps its eyes on the prize — by only paying attention to what is right in front of it.
“We’re staying focused on what got us here — one week at a time,” Gress said. “There isn’t a team on our schedule that can’t beat us if we don’t show up. We’ve had a theme of last stands this year, and we have three more stands to make — and that starts with Fairborn. That’s all we’re thinking about right now.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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