By David Fong
TROY — At the time, it didn’t seem like Troy Christian had much to gain from last week’s 63-0 thrashing of a winless Mississinawa Valley in the final game of the regular season.
Until the Division VII playoff pairings were announced two days later and the Eagles found out they’d be playing Upper Scioto Valley at 7 p.m. Saturday in the regional quarterfinals, that is. Troy Christian (9-1) will host Upper Scioto Valley (7-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday. It will be the first home playoff game in school history. The winner will move on to play the winner of Minster vs. Lehman. That game will be played at a neutral site.
“They are a really high-powered offense,” Troy Christian coach Ryan Jones said. “They really like to spread the ball around. They run a lot of four and five receiver sets. They are different than a lot of the teams we saw this season. They spread the ball out a lot more than most of the other teams we saw this year. It’s probably a good thing we actually played Mississinawa Valley our last game of the season. They spread it out and gave our secondary a look at what we are going to be seeing.”
The trigger man in the Rams’ high-octane offense is junior quarterback Jason Moots, who completed 73 of 130 passes for 1,287 yards, with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s also a threat to run the ball, having carried it 93 times for 581 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
He’s also got a number of options to throw to. The Rams’ leading receiver is senior Chase Rose, who finished the regular season with 45 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sophomore Wayne Lowery had 19 catches for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rams’ spread offense also opens things up for senior running back Austin Sloan, who had a tremendous season, carrying the ball 115 times for 1,444 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons on offense,” Jones said. “They’ve got a lot of great athletes they can get the ball to. They’ve got great skill guys.”
The Rams come into the game clicking on all cylinders, having scored 64, 50 and 55 points in their final three regular season games. After starting the season 1-3, Upper Scioto Valley won its final six games of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.
“You can see their improvement on film,” Jones said. “They’ve gotten a lot better since the beginning of the season. It’s almost like you can see them starting to figure things out and things starting to really take off when you watch them on film. They are a really good team that deserves to be in the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough test for us.”
One thing Troy Christian will have in its favor is home-field advantage, something it’s never had in its six previous playoff appearances.
“Everyone is really excited,” Jones said of the atmosphere on his team and within the school. “This is the first time we’ve had a home playoff game and everyone at the school is pretty excited. The players are pretty excited. Everyone is excited. You can tell there’s a different atmosphere. Everyone is ready.
“The kids have been really focused this week and have really absorbed the gameplan. I think everyone is just ready to play.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong