BY JAKE LOURIM
TROY — Troy senior running back Justin Losey got hit in the backfield, eight yards short of the first down he needed. But if you know anything about the Troy football team this year, the Colts are resilient.
Troy overcame injuries to its two top running backs to regain the city championship and stay in the playoff hunt with a 10-7 OAA Red Division victory over Athens on Friday.
“It means everything,” Troy senior captain Connor Hayden said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I always looked forward to this game.”
Troy (5-3, 4-3) was in prime position for a rout of Athens (1-7, 1-6) after one series.
Anthony Sciortino sacked Athens quarterback Jake Nelson at the 1-yard line, and the ensuing punt went only 27 yards. The Colts scored four plays later on Terrance Cherry’s two-yard touchdown run.
That wasn’t all.
“As soon as the 12 minutes started rolling down, we knew it was going to be a fistfight,” Losey said.
The teams traded a fumble and two punts and went to the locker room with Troy still leading only 7-0.
“I thought they played very well defensively,” Troy coach Gary Griffith said. “They were physical, they tackled very well and we had some injuries.
“I think most of the credit should go to Athens. They played a very, very solid defensive game. We really didn’t have many opportunities.”
From there, the Colts had to gut out the game after losing their two top running backs, Cherry and twin brother Torrance Cherry Jr.
“We knew our O-line had to step up,” Webber said. “We took it upon ourselves to make holes and let the running backs get yards to finish the game off.”
Terrance’s last carry was on the second series. He came out of halftime with an ice bag on his ankle. Torrance, meanwhile, went down early in the third quarter. Both of their statuses are unknown. That left only Losey to finish off the game, and he relished the challenge.
“I guess the coaches trust me,” Losey said. “They tell me, ‘Stick your nose in there and see what you can get.’”
What he got was 18 carries for 116 yards, with 13 carries in the second half.
Athens finally tied the score at 7-7 midway through the third quarter, when Jake Nelson fired a 10-yard pass to Lucas Bezerra
Erich Hager booted 36-yard field goal for Troy, which ended up being the game-winning points in the third frame.
Even after a 14-play, seven-minute drive, Troy led by only three heading into the fourth quarter. Athens had first down at the Troy 15, and the Colts needed a stop. For that, they can thank their defense.
Sophomore Chase Fayne sacked Nelson at the 19 to bring up third-and-14, and the Colts stopped Athens at the 10. The ensuing 27-yard field goal veered wide left, leaving Troy with 3:19 left to chew up.
The play of the game might have been that third down. On third-and-one, a false start penalty pushed Troy back to third-and-six. Losey took a hit in the backfield but spun out of it, weaved and dove to the 32 for a first down. Two minutes later, the players were celebrate with the student section before coming back to shake hands.
“It means we can hold our head up for 365 days that we couldn’t do last year,” Griffith said.
Fireworks capped the victory.
Now, the teams continue in opposite directions. Athens moves to 1-7, while Troy stays in the hunt for a playoff berth at 5-3. The Colts will need a win next week in the OAA Crossover matchup.
Troy sits in a three-way tie for third with Rochester and Rochester Stoney Creek and also for the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the OAA Red-White Crossover. Oxford, Southfield and Farmington Hills Harrison, respectively, occupy those spots in the OAA-White.
But for the Colts, it’s simple.
“Win,” senior offensive lineman Greg Webber said, “and get in (the postseason).”
(Jake Lourim is a senior 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 firstname.lastname@example.org)