By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — The thought of Matt and Charlie Burgbacher making their return to Tipp City Park makes for an interesting subplot, but it will not be the main story-line Friday when the Troy football team takes on Tippecanoe.
“That’s far from the story,” said Matt Burgbacher, Troy’s head coach. Burgbacher was the star quarterback at Tippecanoe during his playing days in the early 1990s. His father, Charlie — now Troy’s defensive coordinator — coached the Red Devils for nearly three decades, becoming the winningest coach in program history. “This is the (Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division) opener for both teams. Both teams are 3-2 and probably need a win to help stay in the playoff hunt.
“Both teams need this win. A loss isn’t the end of the season for either team, but it certainly would put a damper on things. That’s a lot more important than the Burgbachers returning to Tipp City Park. Their field is 100 yards long and 53 and a half yards wide — and Troy and Tippecanoe are going to play a football game. That’s the story here.”
Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge — an assistant for two years under Charlie Burgbacher before becoming the Red Devils’ head coach in 2015 when the elder Burgbacher joined his son at Troy — said he has nothing but respect for the Burgbacher family and will keep the focus on the kids on the field Friday night.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for Coach (Charlie) Burgbacher and his son,” Derge said. “I respect everything (Charlie) did here. I learned more from him in two years than I did in my previous five years of coaching. We respect them, we respect their entire staff and we respect their team. But at the end of the day, we want what they want and they want what we want, which is to win a football game.
“This is Week 6 and it’s the start of league play. There’s more at stake, but there’s not more pressure. We’ve got to go out and play hard and let it fly. We know this is a huge game because the winner will start the league 1-0 and pick up a lot of playoff points.”
Offensively, Tippecanoe still runs a wing-t offense similar to what the elder Burgbacher ran during his time there. Leading the way is senior fullback Cole Barhorst, who has 104 carries for 550 yards and six touchdowns this season. At one halfback spot, Tippecanoe has seen the emergence of junior Josh Burritt, who has 72 carries for 523 yards and three touchdowns. At the other halfback is senior Clay Barhorst, who has 25 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
The Red Devils seldom throw the ball, having attempted just 26 passes in five games.
“They run that wing-t to perfection,” Matt Burgbacher said. “They run a lot of misdirection. They still run buck sweep and guard trap, but they’ll also hit you with a lot of the jet sweep and the criss-cross counter. Their fullback is a three-year starter who has rushed for 3,000 or 4,000 yards in his career. They’ll run a lot of stuff wide, then they’ll hit you with Barhorst up the middle. Their offense is based off the fullback.
“They haven’t passed the ball much this year, but this could be one of those games where they come out and throw the ball and try to catch us off-guard. They’ll run a lot of play action. They don’t drop straight back and pass very often; they’ll roll the quarterback out and let him make plays.”
Troy counters with a defense that seems to have found its footing with an impressive performance against Miamisburg, another wing-t team, last week. The Vikings came into the game averaging 303.5 rushing yards per game, but were held to an astounding 21 yards on 30 carries against the Trojans.
“When I look at their defense, I see a lot of Coach (Charlie) Burgbacher,” Derge said. “You see a lot of tenacity. They are an aggressive defense. That’s what you expect from a Charlie Burgbacher defense. The did a very good job of shutting us down last year (a 35-7 Troy victory) and obviously shut down Miamisburg last week.”
Troy started the season as primarily a spread offense with designs on throwing the ball, but has transitioned into more of a power running attack. Last season, Troy averaged 165.9 passing yards per game; this year the Trojans are averaging 92.4 passing yards per game. What the Trojans have seen, however, is the rise of junior running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop, who has carried the ball 105 times for 725 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“He’s a great player,” Derge said of Culp-Bishop. “He rushed for 200 yards against us in the junior varsity game last year, so we are well aware of his speed. They are a downhill running team. They work hard to break tendencies. They are a run-first team. They want to run the ball from the beginning of the game until the end of the game.”
Burgbacher said Tippecanoe’s defense is similar to the one the Trojans run — no big surprise, considering his father’s fingerprints remain all over it.
“They do a lot of the same things we do,” he said. “They run a 3-4 or a 5-2, whatever you want to call it. The biggest thing I see when I watch the Tipp kids on film is how hard they play and how scrappy they are. It doesn’t matter if they are up in the game or behind in the game, they are going to keep fighting you until the whistle blows.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong