By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
XENIA — Both times the Troy football team has lost this season, the Trojans have had a big game to get right back up for the next week.
And it doesn’t get any bigger than this one.
“We told the boys after tonight that it’s been pretty nice and exciting, each week that we’ve had a devastating loss, it’s been a great team to come back and prepare for the next week, and that’s all that’s going to be on our minds after right now,” Troy coach Dan Gress said. “After Turpin, it was Tippecanoe. And now … what two better teams could you ask for?
“But don’t get it twisted. It is Piqua week.”
Friday night’s game ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Trojans, as — after they had come all the way back to take a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter — Xenia’s Hayden Falvey kicked a 21-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining as the Buccaneers answered and handed Troy a 24-22 loss at Xenia’s Doug Adams Stadium.
The win was Xenia’s eighth straight as it improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Miami Valley League Valley Division, practically wrapping up the overall league title with only a Week 10 game at Fairborn remaining. Troy, meanwhile, fell to 7-2 and 6-1 in the MVL Miami Division, having already clinched at least a share of its division title but snapping its five-game winning streak.
And even though the Trojans fell behind 14-0 after Xenia’s first two possessions and the Bucs — who had only allowed 10 points total in MVL play entering the night — looked poised to run away with the game, Troy simply didn’t let them, battling all the way back and even putting itself in a position to win late before Xenia’s final drive of the game.
“That’s the thing that the kids are going to have to and should hang their hat on and they should be most proud of, and I can tell you for dang sure that the coaching staff is most proud of, is how they responded,” Gress said. “They didn’t crumble. They didn’t fall down. They came out and kept swinging. We could not be more proud of them and how they stuck together through all of that adversity.”
But early on, Xenia definitely looked poised to run away with things.
Alexander Pollander broke a 50-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, kicking off a fast four-play, 68-yard touchdown drive which he capped off on a 2-yard run to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead with 10:12 remaining in the first quarter.
“That’s the tough thing about the option — if everyone doesn’t do their job, then a simple fullback dive can hit for that,” Gress said.
And after a quick three-and-out by Troy’s offense, Xenia went right back to work, this time marching 94 yards on 11 plays — with a 46-yard burst by Kevin Johnson helping to flip the field for the Bucs. Eventually, quarterback Brett Russell showed off the third part of Xenia’s triple-option attack, keeping it himself on fourth-and-2 and scoring on a 9-yard touchdown run to give the Bucs a 14-0 lead with 2:22 still left in the opening quarter.
After that, though, nothing came easy.
Xenia tried to catch Troy napping with an onside kick attempt, but Lucas Henderson recovered for the Trojans. Troy’s rushing attack of quarterback Brayden Siler and running back Kevin Walters began to chew up ground, but a false start on second-and-goal from the Xenia 3-yard line cost Troy a shot at a touchdown as it settled for a 21-yard Tucker Raskay field goal to cut Xenia’s lead to 14-3 with 9:22 left in the opening half — which was where things remained at the break.
And Troy began the second half with a 17-play, 91-yard march that ate up most of the third quarter. Facing fourth-and-4 at their own 48, the Trojans were able to draw Xenia offsides to keep the drive going, and on third-and-goal from the 5, Walters plowed into a pile and was pushed forward over the goal line by the rest of the team, cutting Xenia’s lead to 14-10 with 4:07 left in the third.
“We thought we had some areas we could take advantage of in the running game,” Gress said. “That’s our strong suit, so that’s no surprise to anyone. And they really got it going in the second half. The O-line was executing at a high level, Brayden and Kevin were running at high levels.”
Xenia answered that score with a 63-yard drive of its own, with Pollander capping off a 12-play drive on a 3-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 21-10 with 10:00 left in the game.
Troy’s response was immediate, though, as Siler hit Barr with a 31-yard pass to put Troy on the Xenia 2-yard line, and Walters plunged in from 2 yards out on the next play to complete a four-play, 45-yard drive and cut the lead to 21-16 with 9:00 remaining. And after the defense forced a fast three-and-out, Siler hit Josh Mayfield with a 21-yard touchdown pass to give Troy the lead with 3:15 remaining. The two-point try was stopped by the Xenia defense, though, leaving the Trojans leading by only one at 22-21.
On the ensuing kickoff, Troy hit a low and bouncing squib as it had all night, but a Xenia player jumped up to cut it off and allow the Bucs to set up shop at their own 44 with 3:15 to play.
“We’d been pooching it all night and not allowing it to get into their best player’s hands,” Gress said. “But that one, I didn’t put the kids in a good position, and that kick’s on me.”
A 20-yard run by Johnson with a late hit personal foul tacked onto the end of it put Xenia on the Troy 15-yard line, and three plays later the Bucs had second-and-goal from the 1 — only to be whistled for a false start and back them up. The Troy defense held from there, though, forcing a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line and setting up a chip shot for the overall league title. And Falvey’s kick was on the mark, giving Xenia a 24-22 lead with 19 seconds remaining. Troy was able to run two plays in those closing seconds, but Xenia stopped them at the 40-yard line to seal the win.
The consolation? Troy still can win the MVL Miami Division outright with a victory over archrival Piqua in Week 10 at Troy Memorial Stadium.
“Really, all of the goals we set in the spring as a team are still right in front of us,” Gress said. “So now it’s just time to go get it.
“That’s the biggest, and we’re going to treat it like so. We’re not going to downplay it at all. It’s Piqua week.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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