By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Now that an emotional rivalry week is over, the Troy football team is more than ready to get back to work.
With tons of distractions swirling around last week’s game — particularly playing against their former coach’s new team — the Trojans were able to come away with a hard-fought 14-7 victory at Tippecanoe in Week 4. And even though there was plenty of relief and celebrating after, Troy coach Dan Gress and the team knows that there’s still plenty to do heading into the season’s midway point.
“We’ve got a lot to improve on if we want to accomplish our goals,” Gress said. “But it’s been a good week already. We’ve changed up our routine in practice a little bit and had a good Monday, so we’re hoping that carries over to the rest of the week. It was definitely nice to play that game (against Tippecanoe) and come out on the right side, and now we can focus on the rest of the year and our No. 1 goal, which is winning the MVL (Miami Valley League Miami Division).”
And while the game was low-scoring on both sides, a lot of moving pieces went into it, and the Trojans were able to put the most of them into place to come away with the win:
• Leading the way
The biggest factor, obviously, was Troy quarterback Brayden Siler’s ability to come through in clutch moments.
Siler finished the game with 158 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 20 carries, in addition to going 8 for 11 passing for 106 yards and another score, accounting for 264 of the Trojans’ 356 yards of offense on the night. But numbers can’t show all of the intangible qualities that Siler displayed in the game.
With Tippecanoe leading 7-0 late in the second quarter, Siler hit Austin Stanaford in stride down the sideline for a game-tying 27-yard touchdown pass with only 27 seconds left until halftime. He then gave the Trojans the lead on their second possession of the second half, finishing off a 70-yard, 10-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.
And, with Troy taking possession inside its own 1-yard line with 5:00 remaining in the game trying to protect that one-touchdown lead, Siler led a drive that killed the rest of the clock. He hit Stanaford again for a 27-yard gain on second down to get the Trojans away from the goal line, then he carries the ball on seven of the other eight plays of the drive, including a 24-yard gain on third-and-6 from the Tippecanoe 41-yard line to seal the win.
“In moments we need one, he’s a person that you want to have the ball in his hands when you need a big play or to regain that momentum back,” Gress said. “It’s just nice to have someone back there that, not only can run the ball like that and throw the ball like that, but also is the leader that he is.”
• More Pieces in Place
Of course, Siler wouldn’t have had the chance to pull any of those things off without everyone else’s contributions.
Running back Kevin Walters quietly had another solid game, posting 89 rushing yards on 13 carries. For the year, Walters leads the team — and the MVL Miami Division — with 407 rushing yards, while Siler is right behind him at 338.
“That’s what he’s done all year,” Gress said of Walters. “He had that breakout game against Belmont in the first game of the year, and every game he’s had a really good game. Every time he touches the ball, he has a big-play ability to break it for 30 or 40 yards, and he did that a couple times Friday.”
Also coming up big was Stanaford, who finished with 84 yards and a touchdown on three receptions — including the big one on the game’s final possession to get Troy’s back away from the wall.
“That was obviously a turning point in the game,” Gress said of that fourth-quarter catch. “For any opposing team, it’s disheartening when you’re able to get out of the shadow of your own end zone by hitting a pass. Kudos to our offensive line for giving Brayden the protection, Brayden throwing a nice pass and Austin making a nice play — and also, that was a great call by (offensive coordinator) coach (Jason) McGaharan by letting our playmakers go out and make a play.
“It’s no secret that we have to have other teams honor our passing game, too. Everyone knows what we can do in the run game and that we want to establish the run, but another big part of our offense is the option to pass, which allows us to open our playbook like that.”
• Three Big Stops
And even though Tippecanoe was able to grind out 233 yards of offense on the night and do exactly what it needed to do early, which was drive and keep the ball out of Troy’s hands, the Trojan defense was able to make three key stops throughout the turned the game to Troy’s favor.
“Our defense did a great job. Obviously they racked up some yards on us, but it was the old bend but don’t break,” Gress said. “They were driving it on us, but at the end when it counted, our defense was able to step up and make some plays.”
The first came on the game’s opening possession, as Tippecanoe put together a 15-play drive that began on its own 27 and went all the way to Troy’s 8-yard line — only to be stopped on a fourth-and-1 run play up the middle.
“Emotionally, that first-drive fourth-down stop inside the red zone was huge,” Gress said. “It would have been great for them to start off the game going up 7-0 on that first possession, because their crowd was still in it. That was a huge stop.”
And with less than three minutes until halftime and the Red Devils protecting a 7-0 lead, Troy had every option covered on an option pitch to the left side, forcing a fumble that eventually led to Siler’s touchdown pass to Stanaford right before the break.
“Being able to go into halftime with a 7-7 score, knowing we were getting the ball back, was good,” Gress said. “And that was a great play by Austan Good of playing the quarterback and the rest of the defensive players rallying to the football on the pitch.”
And with Tippecanoe driving in search of the tying score in the fourth quarter, the defense was able to put pressure on Tippecanoe’s quarterback on a third-and-6 play from the Troy 8-yard line, forcing an off-balance throw that Weston Smith picked off in the end zone, his MVL-leading third on the season.
• Postseason race
The OHSAA released its first weekly look at the computer ratings Tuesday. The Trojans, who have qualified for the playoffs three straight years entering this season, currently sit in seventh place in the Division II, Region 7 standings, one of only two 3-1 teams in the top 12 — with four 2-2 teams behind them.
Of course, any talk of the playoffs takes a back seat to the MVL Miami standings, though, where Troy sits tied with Greenville and Piqua at 2-0 — and a big matchup coming at Greenville on Friday night.
“Us, Piqua and Greenville are all sitting at 2-0 in the league right now,” Gress said. “Greenville has had a really good year so far, played Chaminade Julienne really tough, they’ve got athletes on both sides of the ball that can make plays, and what they do, they do very well.
“And it’s no secret that Troy, for some off reason, has always struggled going to play at Greenville, going back to the 1990s even. So we’re doing all we can to get our boys ready to go in there and stay on the right track in league play.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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