By David Fong
TROY — This week, the Troy football team gets a taste of its own medicine.
For two weeks, the Trojan offense has frustrated opposing defenses with dual-threat quarterback Hayden Kotwica, who has completed 23 of 40 passes for 337 yards and one touchdown; he also is the team’s leading rusher with 41 carries for 171 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more frustrating for a defensive coordinator than a quarterback who can throw and run,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “It just gives you so many different things you have to prepare for.”
Troy (2-0) will find out just how frustrating that can be tonight as it travels to Bellefontaine (1-1), which is led by quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus who, like Kotwica, is a threat to both throw and run.
Through two games this season, Lyburtus has completed 13 of 19 passes for 137 yards, while carrying the ball 35 times for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Their quarterback is someone you’ve got to keep your eye on at all times,” Burgbacher said. “He makes spectacular plays with his feet. They like to spread things out with five wide receivers. They utilize their formations well to let their quarterback run the ball. They are trying to thin the defense out so he find creases to run.”
Lyburtus is joined in the backfield by Hayden Nease, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound senior who has 49 carries for 274 yards and six touchdowns. Nease and Lyburtus are the top two rushers in the Central Buckeye Conference.
“It’s tough, because their formations don’t really show any tendencies,” Burgbacher said. “They can run all of their plays out of any formation. We’ve got to try to force them to pass the ball — they are only throwing the ball 10 times per game. By the same token, we can’t disrespect the pass, because when you do that, they do have the ability to go deep.
“Their offensive line gets off the ball really well. They do a nice job with their power game, running the inside zone. Their offensive line has decent size.”
Defensively, Bellefontaine runs a 3-3 stack defense, similar to what Northwest — Troy’s opponent last week — did against the Trojans.
“Defensively, they are very similar to Northwest,” Burgbacher said. “They do like to bring their free safety up very tight to their linebackers, which adds another run stopper. They do have a lot of quick guys on defense. It is nice to see a similar defense two weeks in a row. It makes it a little easier to work on things in practice when you’ve just seen the same defense.”
One of the keys for Troy, Burgbacher said, will be maintaining focus. The Trojans are 2-0 for the first time since 2008, have already matched their win total from a season ago and exceeded their win total from 2014, when their current seniors were sophomores.
“This is uncharted territory for every kid on our roster,” Burgbacher said. “No kid on this team has ever started 2-0. We talk every day about handling adversity — both negative and positive adversity. Right now, this team is getting a lot of attention — which is a good thing, because they deserve it.
“But we’ve also got to be ready to handle that positive adversity. I don’t think anyone on our team set their goal for the season to win two games this year. We’ve still got a lot of goals we’d like to accomplish, and we are going to have to be focused every week if we want to be able to accomplish those goals.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong