By David Fong
TROY — With state power Wayne in the rear view mirror, the schedule does get a little easier for the Troy football team.
Which is kind of like saying doing the backstroke across the Atlantic Ocean is a little easier than doing the butterfly across the Pacific — either way, it’s still going to be a challenge for the Trojans.
“I’ve said this before, but I think the (Greater Western Ohio Conference) North Division is as strong as its ever been, from top to bottom,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “There’s not a bad team in the North. But before we get into that, it starts this week against Xenia.”
Troy (1-3) will close out the non-conference portion of its schedule Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium against Xenia (1-3) before opening North Division play in Week 6. Burgbacher said the similarities between the Trojans and Buccaneers are numerous.
Both teams are 1-3, but have played tough schedules. All three of Troy’s losses — Cincinnati Northwest, Miamisburg and Wayne — came against teams that were playoff participants last year and currently are undefeated. Xenia’s three losses have come against Beavercreek (3-1), Kings (3-1) and perennial state power Moeller (2-2).
“Us and Xenia are kind of in the same boat,” Burgbacher said. “We’ve both played some great football teams. We are both 1-3, but I think we both came into this year expecting to have very good seasons. I think we are both kind of looking at this game as a way to turn the corner before we move into division play.”
Xenia’s offense is led by senior quarterback Danny Naylor. After throwing for 1,791 yards last season, he is on pace to better that mark this season, having completed 79 of 143 passes for 888 yards, with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
“Their offense starts and goes through him,” Burgbacher said. “He’s a big lefthander who reminds me a lot of the old days when Boomer Esiason played for the Cincinnati Bengals. They are going to come in throwing the ball. They want to establish that. They’ll run the ball to keep teams honest, but we expect them to throw the ball.”
Naylor’s favorite target is receiver Ray James, who has 20 catches for 347 yards and two touchdowns. Mechi Harris has 16 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Montel Hurst has 11 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
“They’ve got great athletes on the outside,” Burgbacher said. “They’ve got fast guys out there, and Naylor can get them the ball. They’ve got great athletes on the offensive side of the ball. With the exception of Wayne — who is really just on a different shelf than everyone else — Xenia is as fast as anyone we’ve seen this year.”
Xenia’s defense is anchored by its front seven, which includes senior defensive end Ryan Hudson.
“Their defensive line loves to penetrate,” Burgbacher said. “They run a lot of 4-2-5, and their defensive line comes after you. On the outside, Ryan Hudson is just relentless — and the other three defensive linemen they’ve got aren’t any slouches, either.
“Defensively, they come after you. They aren’t very big, but their two inside linebackers are their two leaders. They want those guys to make a lot of tackles.”
Troy — playing just its second home game five weeks into the season — will look to break a three-game losing streak.
“Believe it or not, we are actually a much better football team than when we won in Week 1,” Burgbacher said. “I know the scores don’t indicate that, but we’ve come in and competed week after week. I still believe in our kids, and I still believe that our best football is ahead of us.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong