By David Fong
BELLEFONTAINE — It was worth the trip.
After a 90-minute bus ride, the Troy football team fell behind 21-0 early and 28-7 at halftime against Bellefontaine, only to pull off an improbable second-half rally and come away with the thrilling 41-36 win. With the win, Troy improved to 3-0, while Bellefontaine fell to 1-2 — Troy has now matched its best start since 2008.
Troy took the 35-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter, only to have Bellefontaine come back and take a 36-35 following a touchdown and two-point conversion with 1:32 to play.
Troy went the length of the field in less than 30 seconds, with Trojan quarterback Hayden Kotwica connecting with Josh Browder on a 53-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 to play.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life for a moment like this,” Browder said. “I felt like I had to put the team on my back.”
“That’s why you never say die,” Burgbacher said to his team after the game. “You never, ever say die. Until the day you die, you are not dead.”
Down three scores to open the second half, Troy opened the second half with a flurry, as a long pass from Troy quarterback Hayden Kotwica to Josh Browder — followed by a long run by Browder — set up a 11-yard touchdown pass from Kotwica to Hayden Jackson.
Troy’s defense — which simply couldn’t stop Bellefontaine quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus in the first half — got its first stop of the game in the second series, thanks in large part to the insertion of sophomore inside linebacker Shane Shoop, who was able to spy Lyburtus in the second half.
After Troy got the ball back, Browder continued to pick up steam, as Troy marched 59 yards, with Kotwica capping off the drive with a 13-yard scoring pass to Browder, cutting Bellefontaine’s lead to 28-20.
After Troy’s defense got another stop, Kotwica broke free on a 50-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. He then completed the two-point conversion with a pass to Jackson, tying the score at 28-28.
Bellefontaine drove into Troy territory on the next drive, but Joah Schricker jumped on a fumble at the Trojan 31. Three players later, Browder broke free on a 49-yard touchdown run, giving Troy its first lead of the game, 35-28.
In the first half, Troy had no answer for Lyburtus, who led the Chieftains to touchdowns on all four of their drives, as Bellefontaine built a 21-0 lead and a 28-7 halftime lead. In the first two quarters, Lyburtus completed 8 of 11 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, while carrying the ball 21 times for 135 yards.
Troy’s lone score in the first half came on short run by Kotwica, which cut Bellefontaine’s lead to 21-7. The Chieftains would add another touchdown before halftime to take a 28-7 lead.
“I am so proud of these kids,” Burgbacher said. “The hear they showed was just amazing.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong