SAYRE — It’s difficult to score when you don’t have the ball.
A combination of key plays on Troy’s part and turnovers on Sayre’s part gave the Trojans a 20-play advantage on the way to a 36-14 nonleague win Friday night.
The first quarter, though scoreless, was indicative of how the game would go.
Sayre got the kickoff and moved the ball well. Deep in Troy territory, the Trojans got a sack and a penalty moved Sayre back farther. Then Dom Ayers stepped in front of a pass at the Troy 15 and returned it to the 32-yard line.
Troy repeatedly tried to shoot itself in the collective foot, committing 20 yards worth of penalties. The Trojans also converted five times on either third or fourth down from between six and eight yards out. The 18-play drive ate 9:09 off the clock and ended with a two-yard TD run by Damien Landon and two-point conversion by Ayers.
“You can’t have those long third and fourth downs against a team like this and give it to them to allow them to keep drives going and we can’t have turnovers,” said Sayre Coach Kevin Gorman.
Sayre answered back quickly, going 56 yards after a short kickoff to make the score 8-7 Troy. Most of the march was air-fueled as Brayden Horton connected four times for 43 yards with the last a seven-yard hookup with Ethan Miller. Nic Bentley’s PAT was on target.
Troy started ripping off chunks of yardage on the ground the next time it had the ball. Landon, who carried the ball 28 times for 154 yards — virtually all between the tackles — had three runs of nine yards or more, and Caleb Binford had a 17-yard run in an eight-play drive that Binford finished from two yards out.
Up 16-7 at the break, Troy started to pull away in the second half. The first score was a 39-yard pass, catch and run from Ayers to Evan Short.
Sayre’s Isaiah Firestine took a short kickoff and returned it to Troy’s 35-yard line. On the second Sayre snap, Horton hit Corbin Brown on a pretty pass play to get within 22-14.
“Our offense ran a couple plays at one point and we were in the endzone,” said Gorman. “Another time we drove down to the 10-yard line and throw an interception.”
Actually, two of the three picks the Trojans got were inside Troy’s 15-yard line.
“We can’t match up with them size-wise, but we thought we could use our speed,” said Gorman. “Their size got the best of us a couple of times, and they played keep-away in the second half.”
By this point, the Trojans’ line — and Landon — were starting to wear on the Redskins. Troy went 70 yards in 12 plays, at one point overcoming a 21-yard loss on a sack and a block in the back deep in the offensive backfield. Troy converted with a 21-yard pass from Ayers to Binford and a pair of runs. In all, the Trojans converted on three third- or fourth-down plays as the Redskins simply couldn’t get their defense off the field.
“It was just not doing our assignments and not tackling well,” said Gorman. “That’s been the thing for three weeks. We had a good game plan going in. I know they’re big, but if we had executed the game plan, we would have been okay.”
A seven-yard Landon run finished off an eight play drive in which Landon ran on seven of the plays and scored from seven yards out.
Ayers only threw the ball five times, but he hit all five for 87 yards and a TD. The one he missed was on a PAT that Firestine picked off. Binford added 88 yards and two scores to Troy’s 285-yard rushing total.
Horton hit 12 of 21 passes for 156 yards and two TDs for Sayre but had three picks. Brown led the receiving corps with three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Sayre will host Montgomery Saturday night for homecoming. Game time is 7 p.m.