By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — As his stellar career as the Troy football team’s quarterback and leader came to an end, Brayden Siler wasn’t thinking about all of the things he and his Trojan teammates had accomplished together. Not the milestones, not the individual achievements, not the firsts for the program, none of it.
He just cared about being able to share all of it on the field with his friends.
“I’m just thankful for the time that I had to play with all of these dudes, especially my senior class,” he said. “All that we’ve been through, the love that we have for each other, and how we played together. But obviously, this isn’t how we wanted it to end.”
Troy, seeded No. 3 in the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, leapt out to a 10-0 lead — including a long touchdown run by Siler on the very first play from scrimmage — but No. 6 Olentangy kept its composure and fought back, scoring 42 unanswered points to finish off a 42-10 Week 11 victory over the Trojans Friday night at Troy Memorial Stadium.
The Braves (6-5) advance to face No. 2 Anthony Wayne — a 44-36 winner over No. 7 Olentangy Berlin Friday night. Troy, meanwhile, finished its first season under first-year head coach Dan Gress 8-3 after having reached the postseason for the fourth straight year for the first time in the program’s history, adding that to its fourth straight division title, as well.
And with his 8 for 13 performance for 83 yards, Siler — who last week became the first Troy quarterback ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, became the first to both rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards in a single season, unofficially finishing with 1,075 yards passing and 1,174 yards rushing. In addition, fellow senior Kevin Walters unofficially finished with 1,215 yards rushing, making the duo the first time Troy has had two 1,000-yard rushers in a season since 2000.
Even with all of that, Gress, like Siler, wasn’t thinking of any of the numbers or accolades.
“I mean, what do you say when it’s the seniors’ last game?” Gress said. “We didn’t sit there and rattle off the accomplishments that this team had. What we talked about was the way this team stuck together and, my gosh, the way they loved each other. That’s all we asked them to do back in the spring was love each other, and that’s all they did from then to the last whistle.”
The Trojans couldn’t have started Friday’s game any hotter.
Siler broke a 75-yard touchdown run straight up the middle on the first play from scrimmage, outrunning one final would-be tackler and then diving across the goal line to put Troy up 7-0 a mere 19 seconds into the game.
Olentangy then fumbled away a squib on the ensuing kickoff, with senior Tucker Raskay recovering to give the ball right back to the Trojans on the Braves’ 22-yard line. Four plays later, Siler kicked a 37-yard field goal, and Troy held a 10-0 lead with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter.
“I just found a hole and got down the sideline,” Siler said of the touchdown run. “They didn’t have any safeties there, so we got that score, and then we got the ball back on the kickoff, kicked a field goal. But then we got back into the red zone three more times in the half and just couldn’t put it in.”
“It couldn’t have started off better, but we told them right away that this was going to be a long game,” Gress said. “They’re obviously a tough team, and we knew it was going to be a dog fight even when we got up early.”
And after that, Olentangy began to take charge.
The Braves put together a 14-play, 74-yard drive, including a fourth-and-1 conversion from Troy’s 26-yard line to keep it alive. Eventually, Landon Johnson capped it off with a 10-yard touchdown run — but Troy blocked the extra point, making the score 10-6 Trojans with 5:33 left in the opening quarter.
The Olentangy defense then forced a quick three-and-out, and four plays later quarterback Trent Maddox — who had passed for more than 2,000 yards this season entering the game — hit Jace Middleton with a 26-yard touchdown pass. He then found Johnson open on the two-point conversion attempt, giving the Braves a 14-10 lead with 1:51 left in the first.
Troy was forced to punt from midfield on its next drive, and Maddox used play-action again to open up Jake Coleman for a touchdown pass, this time from 29 yards to give Olentangy a 21-10 lead with 9:06 until halftime. Troy then began to find its stride on offense but faced a fourth-and-1 from the Braves 28, and the Trojans dialed up a play-action pass of their own — but a dropped pass kept them out of the end zone and turned it over on downs.
Olentangy took advantage right away, with Maddox hitting Caleb Gossett with a short slant and Gossett breaking away for a 52-yard touchdown to put the Braves up 28-10 with 3:22 left in the half. Troy then drove all the way to the Olentangy 4-yard line, but a false start backed them up and an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 10 sent the Trojans into the locker room down 18.
“With this type of offense, you have to make them one dimensional. When they get both the run and pass going, they’re pretty hard to stop,” Gress said. “We were a couple plays here and there away from heading into halftime 28-24, a couple plays that we just didn’t make. And we just let their offense be on the field for a good amount of the football game.”
The Braves got the ball back to start the second half and went on a 10-play, 61-yard touchdown drive, one capped off by a 1-yard sneak by Maddox at the goal line to make the score 35-10 with 7:44 left in the third.
Troy then set out on one final march, going 69 yards in 11 plays to drive to the Olentangy 1. But on fourth-and-goal, Siler tried to leap over the pile and was met and stopped short of the goal line, turning the ball over on downs one final time. The Braves then went 99 yards in eight plays, with Johnson scoring on a 2-yard run to make the score 42-10 with :34 seconds remaining in the third. And with the running clock in effect, the Braves were satisfied to chew up the clock from there to finish off the game and Troy’s season.
In the end, Troy — which made a habit of responding to adversity all season long — simply had no answer for a Braves offense that piled up 479 total yards. Maddox was 12 for 14 for 211 yards and three touchdowns and added one score on the ground, while Johnson had 126 yards and two scores on 18 carries.
But none of that could diminish what these Trojans accomplished this season or everything the seniors did during their long careers, winning a division title and reaching the playoffs all four seasons.
“We knew who this senior class was and the work they put in, and a lot of people coming into the season were saying ‘this is the year Troy takes a step back.’ And us coaches, we took it a little personal — and not because of ourselves, but because of the kids,” Gress said. “We knew the type of talent and saw the type of work ethic they had, and we were just excited that they showed that to everyone else.”
“I’m proud of our accomplishments. We’ve put all the hard work in, and we deserve everything we’ve gotten,” Siler said. “It’s not how we wanted to end it, but we’re proud of everything we put together.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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