By David Fong
TROY — Hayden Kotwica and the Troy football team were bound and determined to roll out the Unwelcome Wagon for Tippecanoe as it made its Greater Western Ohio Conference debut Friday night at Troy Memorial Stadium.
Kotwica, Troy’s senior quarterback, threw for a pair of touchdown passes and run in at least one — possibly two — more as Troy exploded for 21 second-half points in a 35-7 win over Tippecanoe Friday in the GWOC American North opener for both teams. It was the first time the two Miami County schools had played since 1985.
“We wanted this game so bad,” Kotwica said. “They’ve been talking and talking about how they don’t play in the GWOC. They finally came, The team just wanted to say, ‘Wecome to the GWOC.’”
Down just 14-7 to start the second half, Tippecanoe appeared to be on the verge of tying the game when it drove down to the Trojan 25 to open the second half. On fourth down, however, Troy safety Jake Anderson stepped in front of a Tippecanoe pass, picking it off.
“I knew it was fourth and short and they needed the first down,” Anderson said. “They jet motioned away so I just backed up a little bit and saw it coming. I backed up a little bit, baited the quarterback into it and just went.”
That play would turn the tide of the game as, just two plays later, Josh Browder broke off a 50-yard touchdown run, putting the Trojans up 21-7. Browder finished the game with 159 rushing yards. From there, Tippecanoe would never seriously threaten the Trojans again the rest of the game.
“That was a huge play by Jake Anderson,” said Troy coach Matt Burgbacher, a Tippecanoe graduate. “I challenged Jake Anderson at halftime. I challenged him when he came off the field. And Jake responded the way we wanted to see him respond. As a senior leader for us, he responded well.”
From that point on, Troy — which didn’t have any players playing both offense and defense in the game — seemed to grind the Red Devils, who had roughly half a dozen players going both ways — into submission much of the final two quarters.
“It was a lot like the Trotwood game,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge said. “We were down a score at half, then we let it slip away in the third quarter. They did wear us down in the second half. We’ve got to get better.”
Following Browder’s touchdown, Troy’s defense — which Tippecanoe’s wing-t offense was able to gouge for nice-sized chunks of yardage in the first half — forced a three-and-out, Tippecanoe’s first of the game. After a nifty punt return by Hayden Jackson — who frustrated the Red Devils on special teams all night — Browder appeared to have scored on a 37-yard touchdown run on the very next play.
While that play was called back by a holding penalty, it didn’t much matter, as three plays later, Kotwica hooked up with Matt McGillivary on a 31-yard touchdown pass, putting the Trojans up 28-7.
After another Tippecanoe punt, Kotwica connected with Zion Taylor on a 37-yard touchdown pass that saw Taylor go up, twist in the air and make a nice catch while falling backward into the end zone. From there, the game was mostly a foregone conclusion as Troy’s defense stuffed Tippecanoe’s offense and Troy was able to run out the clock.
“We knew going in they’ve got a lot of players going both ways,” Burgbacher said. “And their kids play hard and their kids played hard in the second half. But we had zero guys going both ways tonight and that’s a big key when you’re playing in these GWOC North games. I thought we took advantage of some of those things with the mismatches we had.”
While Tippecanoe may have run out of gas in the second half, it played Troy nearly even in the first half. Troy went up 14-0, first on a 5-yard run by Kotwica, then on a 1-yard run that Kotwica and Browder seemed to carry into the end zone together on a read-option run.
The Red Devils would battle back and score late in the second quarter, however, on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Hughes to Quenten Williams.
It was all Troy in the second half, however, as the Trojans improved to 5-1 (1-0 in the American North), while Tippecanoe fell to 4-2 (0-1 in the American North). Troy travels to Butler this coming Friday, while Tippecanoe hosts Sidney.
“This is a great way to start off a rivalry game with Tipp,” Burgbacer said. “They are a good football team and we knew the first half was going to be tight. We knew that coming in. We told our boys if they kept it going for 48 minutes, we could take advantage of some things and our kids did that.”
All of which made Troy Memorial Stadium a very inhospitable place for its new guests.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong