TROY – Sam Coleman knew people were talking about him.
He also knew it wasn’t very nice.
“I heard the noise,” said Coleman, the senior quarterback on the Troy football team. “The first couple of weeks were hard. I know everyone has certain expectations of how a quarterback and team should play. When the team doesn’t live up to those expectations, it falls on the quarterback. It was tough. I just kept working and took full-heart what the coaches said.”
Coleman and the Trojans struggled through the first three weeks of the season, falling to 1-2 on the heels of a 10-2 season, a Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title and a trip to the playoffs in 2016. Much of the blame in a football-mad town fell squarely — and perhaps unfairly — on Coleman’s shoulders. The fact he was replacing record-setting quarterback Hayden Kotwica only intensified the spotlight on Coleman.
Rather than wilt under the glare, however, Coleman – and the team around him – continued to improve, reeling off seven wins in a row, including a 42-0 blowout win over Greenville Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium. With the win, Troy improved to 8-1 (4-0 in the GWOC North) while Greenville fell to 2-7 (0-4). Troy also wrapped up at least a share of the GWOC North title – its second conference title in a row for the first time since a four-year run from 1995-98 – going into next week’s game against rival Piqua.
Coleman had a career-night against the Green Wave, completing 14 of 16 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, 31- and 47-yard scoring strikes, both to senior Matt McGillivary. Coleman also added a 12-yard touchdown run. He put up all of those numbers in the first half as Troy’s starters spent almost the entire second half on the bench, as the running clock wound down to a Trojan victory. Coleman now has 946 passing yards this season.
“I think Sam took a lot of unfair criticism,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “He had some big shoes to fill, and I think he felt the pressure early. We just wanted Sam Coleman to be the best Sam Coleman he could be. We didn’t want him to try to be something he wasn’t. But, much like our team, he continued to work and grow and right now he’s playing he’s best football of the season, just like the rest of our team.”
Friday’s game was never in doubt as Troy’s defense shut down Greenville early – the swarming Trojans allowed the Green Wave just one first down and 35 yards in total offense – giving the offense the ball near midfield to start all of its drives. Senior free safety Zach Boyer also picked off a pass, setting up a Trojan touchdown. Boyer actually scored on the play, but it was called back due to a penalty on the return.
For the game, Greenville finished with just 99 yards in total offense, most of it against Troy’s junior varsity players.
“I’m not even tired,” said senior linebacker John Wehrkamp, who finished with a pair of sacks. “We just came out and knocked them around.”
The way Troy’s offense was clicking Friday, however, it barely needed the advantageous field position – but certainly took advantage of it. Jaydon Culp-Bishop – who finished with 154 rushing yards – got things started for the Trojans with a 7-yard touchdown run. Coleman then completed the first of his two touchdown passes to McGillivary, a perfectly placed 31-yard pass down the middle of the field.
After a 1-yard run by Sam Jackson put the Trojans up 21-0, Coleman completed a 47-yard scoring strike to McGillivary to extend the lead to 28-0.
“Sam is a good quarterback,” McGillivary said. “It’s tough, having to come in and be a new quarterback in a new system. He’s come a long way. I do think he was treated pretty unfairly. I’m happy for him. I’m happy I could be a part of it. I was just trying to get open and help him any way I could. This is great for him.”
Culp-Bishop would add his second touchdown run and Coleman would scamper in for another – sophomore kicker Brayden Siler was 6-for-6 on extra point attempts – as the Trojans built a 42-0 lead at halftime. With a running clock going the entire second half, the game wrapped up quickly as Troy was able to rest its starters in preparation for Piqua.
The two teams will enter Troy Memorial Stadium this coming Friday with the historic series tied 63-63-6. It also will be a chance for Troy to clinch the GWOC North title outright, something Burgbacher said his team hopes to do.
“We’re happy to win a share of the GWOC North tonight, but we’re not satisfied,” he said. “We don’t want to share it. We want to come out and beat a great Piqua team and win it all for ourselves.”
Greenville will wrap up its season this coming Friday with a home game against Sidney.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong