VANDALIA – The Butler Aviators knew that Friday’s game with Troy would be tough despite The Trojans unimpressive record. As has happened so often this season, the game hinged on Butler’s defense – even on a night where the Aviators put up 33 points.
The Aviators had to stop Troy twice in the games final two minutes – including a drive that ended inside the 10-yard line – to preserve a 33-28 victory.
With the win, Butler improved to 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division). Troy feel to 2-7 and 1-3 in the GWOC North.
Coupled with Sidney’s win over Piqua, the Aviators won the GWOC North championship outright for the first time in school history.
Down 33-28 late after a 3-yard touchdown run by Butler’s Nic Martin, the Trojans marched down the field — thanks in part to long passes from Kotwica to Luke Robinson and Sam Jackson — to the Aviator 9 yard line. Three incomplete passes ended the drive with a little more than two minutes to play, however.
Butler got the ball back and turned the ball over on downs with less than a minute to play. Kotwica would lead the Trojans to midfield, but ultimately the Trojans again ran out of downs, allowing Butler to run out the clock.
Troy got on the scoreboard first as quarterback Hayden Kotwica found Luke Robinson open for a 41-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter. Kotwica ran for a 2-point conversion for an 8-0 Trojan lead.
Butler answered back three minutes later after a 10-play, 80 yard touchdown drive that was caped off by a Nic Martin score from four yards out. Anthony Rigalli kicked the extra point to trim Troy’s lead to 8-7.
Troy extended their lead on a touchdown by Mac Scordia to take a 15-7 lead, but again the Aviators answered quickly when Chandler Craine connected with Mark Verdes for a 25-yard touchdown pass to cut the Trojans’ lead to 15-14.
Troy jumped out to a 22-14 halftime lead thanks to a 41-yard touchdown pass from Kotwica to Robinson with just 14 seconds in the half.
A pair of Trojan turnovers in the second half, however, allowed the Aviators to take the lead. First the Aviators picked off an errant Kotwica pass deep in Trojan territory, allowing Butler quarterback Chandler Craine — who, like Kotwica, put up huge offensive numbers — to complete a 27-yard TD pass to Aaron Field, cutting Troy’s lead to 22-20.
Late in the third quarter, Butler’s Gavin Kohler scooped up a Trojan fumble and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown, giving Butler a 27-22 lead, it’s first of the game. Troy would bounce right back again, however, with Kotwica hooking up with Robinson on an 18-yard scoring strike, giving the Trojans a 28-27 lead.
Butler got the game-winning score with 5:40 in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard score from Nic Martin. The conversion attempt failed which left the score at 33-28 which then set up the dramatic final minutes of the contest.
The Aviators put up 324 yards of total offense including 74 on the ground and 250 yards passing compared to Troy’s 563 yards of offense.
Chandler Craine completed 17-of-27 passes for 250 yards while Troy’s Kotwica passed for a school-record 439 yards.
Nic Martin led the Aviators with 61 yards of rushing and a pair of touchdowns while Noah Ballard led the receivers with seven catches for 125 yards.
Butler will close the regular season on Friday when they host Trotwood-Madison at 7 p.m.
David Fong of the Troy Daily News contributed to this article.
Troy’s Hayden Kotwica (12) fumbles the ball Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.