BY JAKE LOURIM
TROY — Romeo had scored on two straight drives and was moving at will toward a game-winning touchdown. Someone had to make a play for Troy.
Out of nowhere, it was junior safety Danny Wunderlich, who jumped into the dark August sky and plucked the ball out of the hands of the Romeo tight end.
“I’ve still got adrenaline going through,” Wunderlich said.
That play helped wrap up a wild Troy win over Romeo on opening night or the prep football season, 24-20.
Wunderlich’s interception left only 1:33 on the clock. Senior Quincy Walker’s 20-yard run and three quarterback kneels closed the game.
The pick also helped hold off a charging Romeo squad that had gotten back in the game after a Troy-dominated first half.
The Bulldogs finally got their first stop of the game in the third quarter with a turnover on downs. The only problem for Romeo: It chewed up nine minutes of the clock, and the Bulldogs had 12 minutes to come back from down 24-7.
They were about to do it. The following drive, Romeo threw back-to-back 32-yard passes to get into the end zone at the end of the third quarter.
The Colts had to mix it up in the secondary. They were missing senior cornerback Juwuan Jackson to a concussion, and senior Justin Losey moved to mostly quarterback when junior starter Jay Darish injured his knee late in the second quarter.
“We had to put some new kids in there, and sometimes we just blew coverages and didn’t cover anybody,” Griffith said.
After Losey fumbled, Romeo moved the ball down to the Troy 45, where it seemed to be stuck. Holding and false start penalties put the Bulldogs in a fourth-and-20 situation, when they found the tight end Joe Gardner over the middle for a 39-yard pickup. The next play, Gardner was in the end zone.
“We had a four-deep, and for whatever reason we locked on and let the tight end run free,” Troy coach Gary Griffith said. “We talked all week, we’ve got to cover the tight end. And we didn’t cover the tight end.”
Troy punted on its next drive, giving the ball back to Romeo for the potential game-winning score. That’s when Wunderlich stepped in.
In the first half, however, the game was a rout. Troy received the ball on its home turf and went seven plays for 65 yards in four minutes right away, dealing the first punch. After a quick three-and-out, the offense was back at it again, this time going 85 yards in 11 plays in another four minutes.
At that point, the Colts had possessed the ball for more than eight minutes, Romeo for 91 seconds.
The key to the offense was senior running back Terrance Cherry, who pounded the ball all night. He carried 23 times for 131 yards and all three Troy touchdowns.
“I saw a kid that’s ready to play,” offensive coordinator Duane Losey said. “He plays with reckless abandonment. We haven’t had a back like that in a long time. He’s a different kind of running back.”
Cherry reminded Losey of another Troy workhorse running back — David Pardun, who was the back on the 2007 Division 1 state semifinalist team. Even better, Cherry’s twin brother Torrance Jr. has yet to come back from a leg injury.
The brothers haven’t played since their freshman year three years ago at Sterling Heights.
“It didn’t look like (Terrance) missed a beat,” Duane Losey said.
After Walker intercepted a Romeo pass, the offense scored again in 5:20. But the Bulldogs wouldn’t roll over, turning in their own 14-play, 80-yard drive for their first touchdown.
“We stopped them basically the whole time except the last drive,” Wunderlich said. “We were really happy going into the locker room in the second half. They switched it up a little bit and started passing more, and our coverages slipped a little bit.”
In addition, Romeo began to slow down the Troy running attack. Junior quarterback Jay Darish injured his knee after the fourth play of the ensuing possession. But Losey calmly stepped in and led the Colts from the Romeo 46 to the 15 for a last-second field goal to head to the locker room up 24-7.
Losey started at quarterback for two years before moving to wide receiver this year and knows the offense well.
“I was very confident,” Justin Losey said. “I was ready to go, ready to lead my team to another ‘W.’”
“After starting for two years, I’ve got a ton of confidence in him,” Duane Losey said. “The only sad part is, he doesn’t get any reps at quarterback. That was his first snap since July because he’s playing so many other positions.”
Losey led the offense to 87 more yards in the second half. Darish came out of the locker room with his right knee iced and later wrapped. Griffith said he would have X-rays and an MRI Friday.
(Jake Lourim is a junior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)
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