Trojans finish game on 28-7 run and lose to Xenia 45-42 in a GWOC Crossover game.
TROY — The difference from Troy’s recent seasons to this season was apparent on Friday.
The Trojans lost many blowout games last year and didn’t threaten to come back. Xenia jumped out to a 38-14 lead early in the fourth quarter against the Trojans in a GWOC Crossover game last night, and it looked like another lopsided loss was soon to come.
But Troy didn’t fade into the night. The Trojans came alive and went on a 28-7 run to narrow the Buccanneers’ lead to three points late in the fourth. They then forced Xenia to turn the ball over on downs with 2:09 left and drove into Xenia territory in the final minute.
But the comeback attempt fell short when Xenia defensive back Rocky James intercepted a pass with 55 seconds left in the game. The Buccaneers ran out the clock and escaped with a 45-42 win.
“What we saw tonight, with the fight we saw from these kids, was the best fight we’ve seen from them,” Troy head coach Matt Burgbacher said after the game. “The thing is that yeah, I know we’re 1-4, but we’re still clawing and still fighting and (the kids) are giving all the effort they’ve got.
“We’re going to get it going, and it’s going to be sooner than later.”
James’ game-ending interception was redemption of sorts for the senior. James narrowly missed a touchdown pass from quarterback Danny Naylor on third down of Xenia’s previous drive. The pass fell just a few inches in front of James’ outstretched hands.
“That killed me,” James said. “… I misjudged it. I should have had it.”
Troy quarterback Hayden Kotwica led the Trojans to Xenia’s 35-yard line with under a minute left after a couple of long runs. Kotwica then threw a deep pass to the five-yard line near Troy’s sideline. James was alone and jumped up to grab the interception.
“I had a vision,” James said. “I knew it was coming. I knew he was going to throw it. I saw (Kotwica) bring those three skinny (receivers) over. I saw the ball up and went for it and got it.”
Kotwica threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in the game and led Troy with 67 rushing yards. Burgbacher was pleased with Kotwica’s performance and says he wants to get Troy’s running game to improve to take pressure off Kotwica.
Xenia quarterback Danny Naylor led the Buccaneers’ offense in the game. He threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Rocky James had 141 receiving yards and caught to two touchdown passes, while brother Ray James had 96 receiving yards and caught one TD pass.
Troy scored the game’s last three touchdowns. Running back Marc Scordia started the scoring with a 67-yard touchdown run after a short screen pass from Kotwica. Zion Taylor caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with 5:11 left in the game.
Xenia was called for a late hit on the touchdown catch, and Troy pinned the Buccaneers deep in their own territory after the kickoff. Naylor threw a short pass on Xenia’s second play of the drive, which Troy defensive back Drake McDonagh intercepted for an 8-yard touchdown return.
“It was a fluke thing how that went down at the end,” Xenia head coach Bob DeLong said after the game. “But credit to (Troy). They didn’t quit playing, that’s for sure. They played well; they’re doing a great job there. Matt (Burgbacher) is doing a great job. They’re getting better every week.”
Xenia started off 0-3 but has won its last two games. DeLong thinks the team can keep up its momentum in GWOC South play, which starts next week.
“We’re getting better every week,” DeLong said. “My hat’s off to our kids. They didn’t get down when we went 0-3 and they just kept working. We’re better than we were.”
In the final two minutes of the second quarter, Xenia’s three-point lead turned into a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Xenia punted on a third-and-ten near midfield with about three minutes left in the second quarter. The Buccaneers were nursing a 10-7 lead after Troy has scored after a long drive on its previous possession. Troy got a personal foul during the punt return, and Xenia was awarded a first down as a result. Xenia took advantage and scored on a 34-yard pass two plays later.
The Buccaneers then forced a three-and-out on Troy’s next possession, got the ball back and scored again to take a 24-7 lead at halftime.
Matt Burgbacher on Xenia’s 14-0 run late in the second quarter:
“The penalty was one of those where our hands got caught up under a helmet. It was the right call and a good call by the officials… It was unfortunate that it happened at that time. We had them ready to punt and we were getting the ball back. Then they go down and score. That’s football, and the question is how will you respond to it? I don’t think we responded real well to some adversity we had in the first half. But I loved the response we got in the second half.”
Play of the Game
Rocky James caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Naylor with 5:54 left in the third to give Xenia a 31-14 lead. James caught the pass as he fell on his back. Troy defensive back Drake McDonagh covered James tightly and had a hand on the ball as he and James fell to the ground. James held on as McDonagh tried to strip him of the ball during and after the catch.
- Both teams had 10 penalties in the game.
- Six different receivers caught passes in the game for Troy, and none had more than six receptions.
- Kotwica’s five touchdown passes tied a school record for most TD passes in a game.
- Kotwica went over 1,000 total passing yards in the season in the game. He’s thrown for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions. He’s fourth in the GWOC in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns.
- Xenia quarterback Danny Naylor has thrown for 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s third and fourth, respectively, in both categories in the GWOC.
Both teams start conference play next week. Troy hosts Greenville to start GWOC North play, while Xenia travels to West Carrollton.
Burgbacher thinks the Trojans can make an impact in the GWOC North title race this season.
“I think the GWOC North is as strong as the GWOC North has ever been,” Burgbacher said. “Right now, we’re at the bottom (with the worst overall record). And I don’t think we’re a very bad football team… It’s going to be a battle, but that’s why we do this. Our kids are excited for the GWOC North. Our first five games have got us ready for the conference, that’s for sure.”