By David Fong
HUBER HEIGHTS — Welcome back, Trojans.
One year after a dismal 1-9 season, Troy’s third losing season in a row, the 2015 version of the Troy football team served up the ultimate palate cleanser with a 42-31 shootout win over Chaminade Julienne — the same team that beat Troy 42-7 last year — in the season opener Thursday at Heidkamp Stadium.
One year ago, it took Troy until Week 6 to score 42 points — something the Trojans did in just four quarters Thursday.
“It was an awesome effort,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “I’m so proud of these kids. There were multiple times they could have given up, but each time they could have done that, they answered instead.”
Down 17-14 at halftime, Troy exploded for 28 points in the second half to pull out the victory.
“At halftime, I told them to leave it all out on the field,” Burgbacher said. “I told them if they left it all out on the field, it didn’t matter what the final score said.”
Troy took the opening drive of the second half and went 70 yards for a score, with bruising running back Marc Scordia picking up 62 of those yards on the ground, capping the drive off with a 1-yard run, giving Troy a 21-17 lead.
On the very next play, Troy’s Austin Jacobs picked off a pass from CJ quarterback Ryan Peltier and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, giving the Trojans a 28-17 lead.
The Eagles would come storming back, however, scoring on a 61-yard run by Jacquel Freeman and an 18-yard pass from Peltier to KeShaun Owens to retake the lead, 31-28.
From there, however, Troy would score 14 unanswered points, one on a 12-yard run by Scordia and the second on a 20-yard pass from Hayden Kotwica — who threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns in the game — to Zach Boyer, giving the Trojans a 42-31 lead.
Troy’s one-two punch of Kotwica and Scordia combined for nearly 500 yards in offense by themselves. Scordia rushed for more than 150 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.
From there, Troy’s defense held a high-powered CJ offense in check the rest of the way. Early on, it didn’t look like that would be the case for the Trojans.
Missed tackles by the Trojan defense — something that haunted them in two preseason scrimmages — allowed Chaminade to jump out to a 10-0 lead. Troy’s offense, meanwhile, struggled early on offense, going three-and-out on its first two drives.
After CJ went up 3-0 on a 35-yard field goal by Spencer Dufresne, the Eagles forced a Trojan punt and went 96 yards in just five plays, capping off the drive with a 20 yard touchdown run by quarterback Ryan Peltier to take a 10-0 lead.
From there, though, Troy’s offense finally came to life in the first half.
After recovering an onside kick attempt, Troy’s offense took over at its own 42. With Scordia doing most of the heavy lifting on offense, the Trojans drove to the CJ 14, keeping the drive alive on fourth-and-two with a 7-yard run by Scordia.
On third down, Kotwica found Will Brumfield all alone in the end zone, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 10-7.
If Troy’s first scoring drive was ground-and-pound, it’s second scoring drive of the first half was nothing but dynamic. After Trojan defensive back Drake McDonagh picked off a Peltier pass — one of two interceptions he had in the half — at the Trojan 5, Troy running back Josh Browder was thrown for a 2-yard loss.
On second down from the Trojan 3, Kotwica threw a perfectly placed pass to receiver Hayden Jackson, who pulled it in around the 30 and raced the final 70 yards for a touchdown, giving the Trojans a 14-10 lead.
CJ would answer quickly, however, scoring on a short run by Massiyah Smith to give the Eagles a 17-14 lead going into halftime.
In the end, however, Troy — playing a rare Thursday game — announced to the world it was back.
“This was a total team effort,” Burgbacher said. “There wasn’t one or two or three kids who stood out — it was a total team effort.”
It’s good to be back.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong.