Troy Buchanan opened its 2020 football campaign on a Saturday morning when it welcomed Fort Zumwalt South to town.
Though it didn’t go the way coach Ryan Nesbitt wanted, his Trojans pulled out a 27-14 victory, the program’s fourth consecutive season-opening win.
“We were inconsistent offensively,” he said. “We did some things well.”
After falling behind 7-0 to start the game on a Keijuan Howard 1-yard TD run, Troy (1-0) rolled off 27 unanswered points on the legs on the duo of Nick Bova and Zach Collins.
Though he touched the ball just six times offensively due to cramps, Bova had an 18-yard scoring run that amazed those in attendance when he successfully dove for the pylon.
“He’s an amazing player for us,” said Nesbitt of Bova, who missed the entire third period because of cramps. “When he’s on the field, special things happen for us.”
The key moments of the contest occurred late in the third quarter, and into the final quarter. After the Bulldogs intercepted a Kayden Ulhmeyer pass to get their offense back on the field – and a controversial pass interference call moved Fort Zumwalt South even closer – Troy was on the verge of losing momentum, despite having a 21-7 advantage.
However, the Trojan defense rose to the challenge with a goal-line stand, stopping quarterback Jay Higgins’ scramble inches from the end zone.
From the shadow of their end zone, Troy’s offense went to work. Uhlmeyer converted a third-and-19 with a 21-yard run before completing a long pass to Bova, who had returned to the game.
Collins capped the marathon drive by scoring untouched from three yards out to increase his team’s lead to 27-7. Collins did the heavy lifting for Troy with 163 yards rushing on 29 carries, as the Trojans’ triple-option racked up 339 yards on the ground.
In addition to his score, Bova ended with 159 yards of total offense. Nesbitt said that series of plays showed the heart of his entire roster.
“Even with some young kids, they’re a tough group,” said Nesbitt, whose team rolled up 428 yards of total offense against Fort Zumwalt South for their second win in five tries against them. “They’re resilient – and I’m proud of them.”
Howard finished with 117 yards on the ground and scored twice to lead the Bulldogs.
“We’re far from a finished product,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve got some things to clean up.
“The goal was to get to 1-0, and we did that.”
Nesbitt hopes his Trojans get those “things” cleaned up by Friday, when his team travels to Warrenton. Kickoff is 7 p.m.