TROY — In Week 1, Troy Christian put its rushing attack on display.
Friday night, the Eagles wanted to take to the air.
“The conditions were better tonight, and we wanted to throw the ball a little bit,” Troy Christian football coach Ryan Jones said. “We had a good week of practice there, we’ve got two great receivers in Jacob Brown and Peyton Spurlock, (quarterback) Hayden Hartman has thrown the ball really well, and we just wanted to give them a chance to show what they could do.”
They did just that. All of the Eagles did.
Troy Christian’s Jacob Calvert scored three of his four rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, Hartman threw three touchdown passes — two to Spurlock in the second quarter to give the Eagles a 34-0 lead at halftime — and one to Brown in the second half as the Eagles put away a 54-8 victory over Bradford in Troy Christian’s home opener Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
Troy Christian (2-0) was dominant from start to finish, but particularly in the first half when the Eagles piled up 257 yards of total offense to the Railroaders’ 38. Calvert had 138 of Troy Christian’s 148 first-half rushing yards on 12 carries while Hartman was 7 for 11 passing for 109 yards and added 15 yards on the ground. Spurlock had three catches for 43 yards and Jacob Brown had three receptions for 59 yards to lead the Eagles’ receivers.
Bradford, meanwhile, struggled throughout the opening two quarters and didn’t get a first down until there was only 58 seconds remaining in the first half. Mason Justice had 10 of the Railroaders’ 18 first-half rushing yards while Andrew Branson was 2 for 8 passing for 20 yards — 13 to Hunter Penkal and seven to Walker Branson — with an interception.
From the beginning, the game was never in doubt.
After holding Bradford to a quick three-and-out on the opening possession, Troy Christian’s David Blake blocked a punt and gave the Eagles possession at the 15-yard line. Two plays later, Calvert took the ball into the end zone from 8 yards out to put the Eagles up 7-0.
Another three-and-out forced Bradford to punt again, but a 45-yard return by Brown was called back on a penalty, giving Troy Christian possession at its own 40. That mattered little, as Calvert took a third-and-10 carry 45 yards up the middle for another touchdown to make it a 14-point game with 5:18 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles tacked on one more score before the end of the opening frame. On third-and-8 from the Troy Christian 47, Brown made a diving catch on a pass by Hartman for a 37-yard gain, and three carries later, Calvert punched it in from 1 yard out to make it 21-0 with 47 seconds left in the first.
And when Bradford (0-2) tried to make the going tougher for Calvert, the Eagles found other openings.
“They were bringing seven guys in the box a lot,” Jones said. “We were kind of taking what the defense gave us, and the guys executed real well. The guys ran good routes, Hartman threw some good balls, and we were able to capitalize on that. They stepped up and made plays.”
On both of Troy Christian’s scoring drives in the second quarter, the Eagles were forced to go for it on fourth down from the Bradford 30 — getting it both times. The first time, an offsides penalty on Bradford on fourth-and-5 gave the Eagles a first down, and four plays later Hartman hit Spurlock for a 14-yard touchdown. Then on fourth-and-2 from the 30, Calvert powered forward for an 8-yard run to keep the drive alive, and Hartman hit Spurlock on the next play for a 22-yard score to make it 34-0 with 1:52 until halftime.
Bradford’s Justice strung together runs of 9 and 2 yards for Bradford’s first first down on the final drive of the half, then Penkal had a 13-yard gain on a reverse — but Spurlock picked off an Andrew Branson hail Mary on the final play before the break to keep it 34-0.
The domination continued after halftime, too. On the opening drive of the third, Hartman hit Brown for a 48-yard touchdown on third-and-8, with Brown leaping up to make the catch and then dodging a pair of defenders to take it the rest of the way.
“That was a fantastic play,” Jones said. “Great effort. Hartman threw a nice ball, gave the receiver a chance to make a play on it, and Brown did the rest. He made a play on the ball, broke a tackle, made guys miss.
“We have guys out there that can make plays, and they showed up tonight. We had good protection all night; our running backs did a good job of picking up their blitzes. And Hartman made great decisions all night. If it wasn’t there, he tucked it down and ran. He threw to the right spot, read the defenses well and hit the open guys.”
And after a three-and-out and a big punt return, Calvert took the ball 20 yards on the first play of the drive for his fourth touchdown of the night to make it 48-0 with 5:06 left in the third.
Bradford got its only score of the game against Troy Christian’s backup defense, with a 46-yard screen play from Andrew Branson to Dialaquan Millhouse setting up a 16-yard reverse by Penkal, and Penkal converted to two-point run to make it 48-8. But Troy Christian’s Josh Hivner scored on a 7-yard run with 5:15 to play to make it 54-8, and the Eagles ran the clock out from there.
“It was nice to see our defense have that type of game,” Jones said. “They deserved that. They’ve been improving each week. We’ve got a pretty good secondary out there, the line has played really well, and the linebackers are improving. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect tonight from Bradford — they changed a bit from their last scrimmage to their first game. We kind of put a lot on our defense, asked a lot of them, and they did a great job of recognizing and executing.”
In Week 3, Troy Christian travels to Northridge while Bradford hosts Catholic Central.