By David Fong
VANDALIA — Special teams play has been a problem all season for the Aviators and head coach John Puckett is searching for answers.
On Friday, Troy’s Blake Burton came up big on two special teams plays that made the visitors’ winning margin appear much bigger than the play on the field indicated.
The Troy football team’s senior linebacker blocked one punt and force a fumble on another to power the Trojans to a 25-0 win over Butler Friday. With the win, Troy improved to 6-1 (2-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division), while Butler fell to 4-3 (1-1 in the GWOC North).
“It was was a rugby punt,” Burton said. “Coach (Dan) Gress called the play. He said they were going to move their ‘bulls’ over. I just got by them. It felt pretty good. I had missed some opportunities last year to block some punts and didn’t want to do that again. It was a huge different in the game. I blocked the first one and Tucker (Raskay) scooped it up and made the play.”
“We were down 6-0 literally four minutes into the game and it was just poor execution,” said Puckett. “It’s (special teams) the worst in my 20 years as a coach, but it tough when you have to put freshmen into a varsity football game. It’s tough – they (Troy) are a good football team, but they only had two offensive touchdowns.”
After Troy’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Aviator’s opening drive, Trojan linebacker Blake Burton broke though the Butler line and blocked the punt, knocking it back into the end zone, where Raskay fell on it to put the Trojans up 6-0.
Later in the game, with Troy leading 19-0, the Aviators again had to punt from their own end zone, thanks in part to the Troy defense, which was lights out all evening. This time Burton was about to tackle the Butler punter, who fumbled the ball and fell on it at the Aviator 3-yard line. Three plays later, Jaydon Culp-Bishop bulled his way in from a yard out to put the Trojans up 25-0.
“Absolutely, our special teams played well,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “Our special teams and defense played great. We gave up a little bit of yards one some plays and bent at times, but we didn’t break. And then for our special teams to block two punts is great. That first one really set the tone for us.”
Troy’s offense struggled to move the ball early in the game, going three-and-out on its first two drives. On Troy’s third drive, however, the Trojans finally got the ball rolling. Tight end Spencer Klopfenstein ignited the drive when caught a pass from quarterback Brayden Siler and rumbled 53 yards to the Butler 17. Two plays later, Culp-Bishop bulled his way in from 12 yards out, putting the Trojans up 13-0.
That was just the warm-up act for Run JCB, however.
After the Troy defense forced yet another three-and-out, Butler punted and pinned the Trojans at their own 3. On the first play from scrimmage, Culp-Bishop gave Troy some breathing room with a 9-yard run. On the very next play, he took the ball up the middle, cut outside, broke a tackle and outran the Aviator defense 88 yards for a touchdown to put the Trojans up 18-0.
“Outside of a couple of big plays in the second quarter, we defended them pretty well,” said Puckett. “We created four turnovers with three interceptions and a fumble. Defensively we didn’t play that bad but offensively we struggled. They are a really good defense.”
“Our kids came down here and played hard against a good Butler team,” Burgbacher said. “It wasn’t perfect, but you have to give Butler a lot of credit, too. But we fought through some adversity and came away with a win.”
Key injuries have the Aviator coaching staff searching for answers – especially among underclassmen. The shorthanded Aviators will host Piqua (5-2, 2-0) in Week 8, a team looking for playoff points just like Butler.
“Piqua isn’t going to all of a sudden play a bland defense next week because we are playing freshmen,” said Puckett. “It’s our job as coaches to have our kids in a place to be successful no matter what grade they are in. They are going to come after us like everybody does. Right now we can’t block a blitz to save our life but we have to figure out something.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.