TROY — There’s no mistaking that Troy is a running football team, and that style of offense carried the Trojans to a 9-1 record in the regular season this year and the second seed in the District 4 Class 2A playoffs.
While Troy coach Jim Smith was concerned with seventh-seeded Line Mountain’s running game heading into Saturday’s district quarterfinal, that had no bearing on what the Trojans would be able to do offensively.
As it turned out, Line Mountain barely had any time to get its running game together because Troy held the ball for so long. The Trojans racked up a near 16-minute advantage in time of possession and that was the biggest difference in a 27-14 win over the Eagles. The win advances the Trojans to next Saturday’s quarterfinal with Mount Carmel, another running team.
“I was really happy with our defense because we haven’t seen a team all year that runs the ball like they do downhill,” said Smith. “I was a little bit nervous because they run the ball using a similar scheme as us but out of different formations and you just don’t know how your team is going to react but the kids did a great job.”
While Troy’s defense stymied the Eagles for much of the night, Troy’s offense was busy putting together three long drives of more than six minutes, including the final one in the fourth quarter that iced the game after the Trojans led by just five late in the fourth.
Troy scored a touchdown in each of the four quarters, and their first and third quarter touchdowns each took more than seven minutes off the clock as the Trojans kept moving the chains.
“We had our chances to make plays. We had some stops in the backfield, we had guys in position to make tackles, but we just didn’t make them,” said Line Mountain coach Brandon Carson. “We were tackling up high instead of tackling at the knees and one guy can’t bring them down up high. But give credit to them as well, then run really hard and have some good backs.”
Leading 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, Troy lost only its third fumble of the season by its first team on its own 30. Four plays later, Line Mountain punched it in on Evan Herb’s one-yard touchdown run to pull within 19-14 with 9:34 left in the game.
But from that point, Troy took its ensuing possession beginning at its own 40, and put together a 12-play scoring drive that took 6:20 and was capped by Damien Landon’s five-yard touchdown run on the sophomore’s 40th carry of the night. He finished with 41 carries and 202 yards. Troy converted both a third and a fourth down on that drive and for the game was 5-of-11 on third down but a perfect 4-for-4 on fourth down conversions.
Troy ran a total of 66 offensive plays, 61 of which were rushes, and held the ball for 31:55. By contrast, Line Mountain was unable to string much together offensively, as the Eagles only had 44 plays and only had the ball for just over 16 minutes.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we have a great offensive line that we trust in and some tough running backs and we just do what we do.
“We’re going to keep working hard. Next week is our district championship, so it’s going to be a big one and it’s going to be here at Troy and that’s a nice thing,” said Smith, fully aware that the Southern Columbia juggernaut likely awaits the winner of next week’s game.
The Trojans received the opening kickoff and proceeded to go 72 yards in 15 plays and 7:01 to take a 7-0 lead on Dom Ayers’ one-yard touchdown run.
Line Mountain quickly answered as they got a long kickoff return by Garret Laudenslager all the way out to the Troy 45. The Eagles then took seven plays to go the 45 yards but in only 1:55, capped when Herb found Cody Ebersole behind his defender in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-10.
The game remained tied until Line Mountain committed its only turnover of the game, which was a costly one. On a first-and-10 from the Troy 36, Jacob Feese broke loose up the middle for a 17-yard gain inside the 20, but while being tackled from behind, had the ball knocked out and the Trojans recovered at their own 19. They then had their shortest scoring drive of the night time-wise, going 81 yards in just 4:13, capped by a play-action pass by Ayres to Morgan Madigan for a nine-yard touchdown to put Troy up 13-7.
Later in the second quarter, another miscue cost the Eagles again. After taking over at their own 29 with 1:04 left in the half, Herb found Laudenslager for a 21-yard reception to bring Line Mountain to the Troy 13 with about 10 seconds left in the half. Out of timeouts, Line Mountain quickly got to the line to try to spike the ball, but the snap was fumbled instead of spiked and the clock kept running and ran out, with not all of the Eagles aware of what had happened.
That would prove costly, as Troy forced Line Mountain to punt after the Eagles received the second half kickoff, and from that point, the Trojans put together their second seven-plus minute scoring drive of the night, which could have been even longer if Caleb Binford hadn’t broken loose for a 30-yard touchdown like he did with 1:57 left in the third. Binford finished with 85 yards on 13 carries.