CANTON — It may have been the year 2019 on Friday in Canton but it also felt like throwback night at the Old Shoe.
Canton and Troy both came in at 8-1 playing for the NTL title, 76 rushing plays to just 21 pass attempts between the two teams and no parking within a half mile radius of the Canton field at kick-off.
It may have also felt like throwback night for Troy because they did two things on Friday they hadn’t done since the 1980s.
They beat Canton 21-14 to win their first out right NTL title in 31 years and Damien Landon broke the school’s all-time rushing record that was set back in 1984.
“I can’t even explain it, it feels great,” said senior lineman Jack Imbt. “We put so much hard work in to get here. I have tears in my eyes.”
The Trojans were co-champions in 2014 with North Penn but this is first out right title since 1988. If they won today they would finish the NTL Large School Division undefeated. If Canton won it would be a 3-way tie between Troy, Canton and Wellsboro, who beat NP-Mansfield 21-7 on Friday.
But there was no sharing this year.
“It feels real good,” said Troy coach Jimmy Smith. “It didn’t feel so good a few years ago when we shared it. It’s not even worth talking about when you do that, let’s just go win this thing. And what I like about it is we did it our way, we did it with three plays.”
That wasn’t more evident than in the fourth quarter when Troy killed the clock with runs of four and five yards to ice the game. They only threw once in the second half despite running 32 plays.
And that playing doing most of the running was Landon, who finished with 142 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns.
He had 20 carries for 91 yards and a score in the second half alone, surpassing the school record of 1690 yards early in the third quarter. That mark was set by Terry Spaulding.
He has 1778 yards on the season now.
“We were coming in to beat it,” Landon said. “I have a great, outstanding line and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Smith praised him for how he’s run this year.
“He’s durable, he holds on to the ball,” he said. “He hasn’t turned the ball over in a year now and it happened to him (against) Canton.”
Imbt is also happy to block for the record maker, something every offensive lineman dreams of.
“We love it, he’s our guy and were willing to put our bodies on the line for him every night,” he said. “We love him.”
The offensive line is something Troy takes in pride in and invests in, which showed on Friday night.
“For a young kid (Damien) is blessed to have a great line,” remarked Smith. “He has a lot of good kids around him.”
By the end of the game Troy had amassed 330 yards on 55 carries with Caleb Binford leading the way, running for 153 yards and a score on 14 touches.
However, the Warriors made them earn every yard they got.
“I have to hand it to Canton, they’re a tough bunch of kids,” Smith said. “They handled our run game as good as anybody has all year, maybe better than anybody has all year. I knew they would show up to play. Those kids showed up and gave quite an effort tonight.”
They hit a few big plays and, in keeping with the Halloween spirit of the season, pulled a few tricks on the Trojans.
Yet, they couldn’t get much traction offensively with just 208 total yards, while their defense was on the field for 62 snaps.
They did get on the scoreboard first, taking the opening kickoff 75 yards on nine plays.
On the second play from scrimmage Uriah Baillie hit Nick May for a 14 yard play, then on third and 10 Baillie scrambled for 35 yards down to the Troy 27 yard line.
Troy pushed them back to the 35 yard line to force a third-and-18 when Baillie found May again, this time 29 yards down to the Troy 6-yard line.
Baillie then rushed it in on the next play. Ben Knapp added the point after to make it 7-0 just 3:48 into the game.
Then on the ensuing kick-off Canton lined-up and ran like May was going to send it deep, but onside kicked it and the Warriors recovered.
They seek out one more first down but Troy’s defense stiffened, holding them to two yards on three straight plays.
Then on fourth-and-8 Canton turned it over on downs as Baillie was sacked by Mason Imbt.
Troy’s own offense sputtered on their first possession. An 8-yard Binford run on third down gave them a first but back to back no gains by Landon put them in a hole that they couldn’t get out of. Two plays later they turned it over on downs.
This next possession started a stretch where Canton wasn’t able to register a first down. Their last four possessions of the first half ended with three three-and-out punts and an interception.
Troy took over on their own 29-yard line.
Two plays, on the first play of the second quarter, Binford broke free on the left side for a 68-yard scoring strike.
The 2-point conversion was no good but it was a momentum changer, cutting the deficit to 7-6.
Canton punted on their next drive, pushing Troy all the way back to their own 12 yard line due to a block in the back penalty.
Starting there the Trojans went 88 yards on 15 plays to get the lead on a 2-yard punch from Landon.
13 of the plays were runs, including a crucial 11-yard run by Ayers on 4th-and-7 from the Canton 43. Two plays later he hit Binford on a 10-yard passing play to get down to the red zone.
A 5-yard Ayers run followed by an 8-yard Binford run gave them first and goal. Canton was called for back to back encroachment penalties that set up the touchdown run.
The 2-point conversion was good this time — Ayers hit Ridge Spencer in the endzone — to give them a 14-7 lead with 3:56 left in the half.
After another Canton 3-and-out Troy took over on their own 17-yard line.
A 28-yard run by Landon on the second play from scrimmage got them to mid-field. A holding call backed up Troy up but a 37-yard scamper on third-and-20 by Binford set Troy up for another touchdown.
But on the next play from scrimmage Ayers’ pass to the endzone was picked off by Cooper Kitchen.
Two unsportsmanlike penalties on the play by Troy gave Canton good field position, on the Trojan 43, with less than a minute to play.
However, Baillie’s pass on the first play from scrimmage was picked off by Gavin Cocick, sending the game to halftime 14-7.
Binford was Troy’s start in the first half, rushing for 138 yards on nine carries with Canton held to 90 total yards.
However, Troy was flagged eight times for 84 yards, which they were able to overcome for two scores but not what a coach wants to see in a pivotal game.
The Trojans received the kick-off to start the second half and did what they had done all year.
Starting at their own-43 they went 57 yards on 15 plays, 14 of them runs, for a touchdown.
The second half is Landon time as he had nine carries for 41 yards and the score though the key play was an 11-yard pass play from Ayers to Binford on third-and-8 to keep the drive alive.
The possession took up most of the third quarter, Troy scored with just 3:53 left on the clock, and took a 21-7 lead as Ben Hickock hit the point after.
Just as it looked like Troy might pull away Canton was able to generate some offense on their first possession.
Hayden Ward picked up eight yards on the first play from scrimmage on a jet sweep followed by a 17-yard run two plays later by Baillie.
A Troy personal foul set Canton up on the Trojan 44-yard line.
Back to back runs by Baillie of 15 and 16 yards got them down to the Trojan 10-yard line, setting up a first and goal.
But the running lanes closed up on the next two plays. On third down Baillie over threw Knapp in the corner of the endzone while on fourth down his pass to Ward was also incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
The Canton defense dug in on Troy’s next possession, forcing them into a three-and-out.
Starting on their own 41-yard line the Warriors did get into the endzone this time.
The drive started out with an 8-yard pass play from Baillie to May followed by a Baillie 21-yard run two plays later to get to the Troy 28-yard line.
Canton then ran a reverse to Ward that fooled the Troy defense. A Baillie block freed up Ward, who leaped over his quarterback into the endzone.
Knapp’s point after was good and the 28-yard run put Canton back into the game, cutting it to 21-14 with 8:34 left to play.
But they would never get the ball back.
Starting on their own 32-yard line Troy ran off 16 plays to run out the clock. They leaned heavily on Landon, who had 10 carries for 48 yards on the drive, which ended at the Warrior 9-yard line.
They picked up five first downs on the drive to ice the game.
Ayers finished with 30 yards rushing on nine carries while going 2-for-5 for 21 yards through the air. Binford caught both passes.
Baillie had 115 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while throwing for 58 yards on 5-for-16 passing.
Ward had two carries for 36 yards while May had the big night receiving with 52 yards on four catches.
Troy had a 16-9 edge in first downs but was penalized 11 times for 109 yards. Canton was flagged three times for 20 yards, all in the first half.
“It’s a sweet thing to come down here with all these people and two good teams and win the Old Shoe,” said Smith.
Both teams move on to the playoffs with home games next week. Who they play has yet to be determined, though Canton has the top seed in the Class A for the second year in a row.
Troy’s seeding is still uncertain but no matter what they plan on giving it their all come Week 11.
“We’re just going in with the best we got and not quitting,” Imbt remarked.