SIDNEY — No one had stopped Sidney’s offense before Friday, but Troy bottled up Isaiah Bowser for the second consecutive year and contained the rest of Sidney’s playmakers in a big Greater Western Ohio Conference showdown.
The Trojans held Sidney scoreless in the first half and ran away to a 48-21 victory at Memorial Stadium.
With the victory, Troy improves to 6-2 and takes control of the GWOC American North Division race with a 3-0 record. The loss was the first of the year for the Yellow Jackets, who fall to 2-1 in the North.
Sidney coach Adam Doenges had a simple message to the team after the loss: it’s not the end of the season.
With wins on the road at Butler and Greenville the next two weeks, the Yellow Jackets would likely clinch a first-round home playoff game. That would give Sidney’s seniors an opportunity to leave Memorial Stadium with a better showing.
“It’s going to be important for us to respond to this,” Doenges said. “Our backs are against the wall for the first time this year. We had high hopes and high goals, and it’s going to be important to respond in these last two weeks. We’ve still got some goals we can accomplish yet. …We can still finish strong and play on this field again.”
Sidney led the GWOC through the first seven weeks with an average of nearly 500 yards per game but couldn’t move consistently against Troy, which allowed an average of 234 yards in its first seven games.
Bowser rushed for 68 yards, which is his lowest output since rushing for 51 yards against Troy in Week 8 last season. Bowser accumulated 1,900 rushing yards in the first seven games.
“The big thing we stressed to our kids this week is ‘do your job,’ ” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “… That’s what they did. We weren’t all set out to stop Isaiah Bowser, because they’ve got (quarterback) Andre Gordon back there.
“And not only is Andre a threat to run the ball, he throws the ball great. We had to play a complete game defensively, and (Sidney) is so explosive, so not at any point did we get comfortable.”
It wasn’t Troy’s ability of limiting big plays that doomed the Yellow Jackets as much as it was Troy’s ability to create turnovers. Troy recovered two fumbles by Bowser and one fumble by Gordon in addition to grabbing two interceptions. A blocked punt in the first half also set up a Troy touchdown.
“I don’t fault our kids,” Doenges said. “They were just trying to make plays. Sometimes you can get away with that, but when you take too many chances against a really good defense, they’re going to make you pay for it. They’re a tough defense, and we knew that going in. We had a good game plan, but in the end, their best beat our best.”
Sidney cut Troy’s lead to 34-14 late in the third quarter on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to Caleb Harris, and the Yellow Jackets forced a punt on Troy’s next drive.
The Trojans pinned the punt down at Sidney’s 3-yard line, and Troy linebacker Shane Shoop recovered a fumble by Gordon in the end zone a few plays later to give Troy a 41-14 lead with 11:39 left in the fourth quarter.
Gordon threw a short touchdown pass to Harris with 8:21 left to bring Sidney within 20 points again, but Troy ate a lot of clock on its next drive and scored on a 25-yard run by Sam Jackson.
Shoop had another big play earlier in the second half. Troy went three-and-out on its first drive of the half, and Sidney went on a long drive that Gordon capped off with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Keith Lee.
Shoop fielded the ensuing kickoff, dodged two Sidney defenders and, with the help of good blocking, ran 75 yards for a touchdown with 7:54 left to give Troy a 27-7 lead. Jaydon Culp-Bishop scored a 99-yard touchdown run a few minutes later to increase Troy’s lead to 34-7.
“The biggest thing we did was every time Sidney did something positive, we responded,” Burgbacher said. “… That’s just making big-time plays in big games. It wasn’t one or two guys, it was the whole team.”
Doenges credited Troy for coming up with turnovers and responding to all of Sidney’s second-half touchdowns.
“They made the big plays when they needed to, and we didn’t,” Doenges said.
Bowser had fumbled only once in the last two seasons before Friday, and Gordon had one interception and one fumble on the season entering the game. Burgbacher credited Troy’s defensive line and linebackers for creating Sidney’s five turnovers.
“We got good pressure on them,” Burgbacher said. “We had to mix some things up a little bit. We couldn’t be predictable on defense, because again, Sidney’s a very good team. We couldn’t blitz all the time, but we had to do it periodically, and I thought Shane (Shoop) and Blake (Burton) did a nice job coming from the inside, and then it was a question of which defensive end was going to come.”
The Yellow Jackets, which were ranked fourth in the state in Division II, will look to get back on track against Butler next Friday. The Aviators (3-5) had a lead over Piqua in the third quarter of a game on Thursday night but couldn’t hold on and lost 33-27.
“Our goal is to finish this regular season on a high trajectory and keep moving forward and playing our best ball after Week 10,” Doenges said. “… It’s going to be important to respond, going on the road into two tough environments.”
The win was a statement for Troy, which has won five in a row. The Trojans finished 10-2 last year and returned many starters but struggled with a 1-2 start. Burgbacher said the team was determined to prove any doubters wrong.
“Our kids heard the critics saying we’re a rebuilding team and that next year will be the year for Troy,” Burgbacher said. “We knew the potential this team had as long as they kept working and stuck together. That’s the biggest thing these kids have done, they’ve stuck together. They come in every day and some days will drive you nuts, but other days they have the right mental mindset. When it’s game time, they’re ready to play.”
Troy took advantage of three turnovers by Sidney in the first half to build a 20-0 lead.
Bowser fumbled on Sidney’s second drive, and Troy recovered at Sidney’s 20-yard line. After Troy moved inside the 5, Sidney stopped three consecutive run plays by Culp-Bishop. Troy kicker Brayden Siler then missed a field goal, and Sidney took over at its own 8.
The Yellow Jackets’ next drive ended when Sam Jackson intercepted a pass by Andre Gordon and returned it to Troy’s 36.
Sam Coleman threw a 25-yard pass to Spencer Klopfenstein to move it to Sidney’s 1-yard line late in the first quarter, and Jackson ran it in on the first play of the second quarter to give Troy a 7-0 lead.
Coleman threw a long pass to Culp-Bishop to move the ball to Sidney’s 13, but Sidney held on the next three plays, and Siler kicked a field goal with 7:33 left.
Troy blocked a punt by Sidney on the next drive and took over on Sidney’s 30, and Jackson scored a few plays later on a short run with 2:14 left in the second to increase the lead to 17-0.
“The one thing we stressed this week was to get off to a fast start,” Burgbacher said. “They’re 7-0, and I have been there a couple of times in my coaching career. You fall behind early, and that pressure just mounts. We thought if we could get out to an early lead, maybe they would feel a little more pressure, since I know they want that undefeated season.”
Harris intercepted a pass later in the quarter, but Bowser fumbled and Zach Boyer recovered at Sidney’s 27. Troy moved the ball to the 7, and Siler hit a 23-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half to extend the lead to 20 points.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.