TROY — Xenia was one touchdown away from forcing a running clock on Troy.
What looked like an early blowout turned into an instant classic.
Down 24-7 at halftime and 38-14 in the fourth quarter, the Troy football team put up a furious — almost heroic — charge late, scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter, but a Troy drive that began with 2:09 to play in the game was cut short by a Xenia interception, allowing the Buccaneers to escape with a 45-42 win.
With the win, Xenia improved to 2-3, while Troy fell to 1-4.
A series of mistakes in the form of turnovers, blown coverages and inexcusable penalties — coupled with a huge night from Xenia quarterback Danny Naylor — led to all four of the Buccaneers’ first-half scores as the Buccaneers built a 24-7 halftime lead.
First, the Trojans fumbled the ball on their first drive at their own 26, which led to a 23-yard field goal by Blake Bond, giving the Bucs a 3-0 lead.
After a Trojan punt, Xenia drove into Trojan territory, but faced a fourth and 14 at the Trojan 28. A breakdown in the Trojan secondary allowed Naylor — who had 203 yards passing in the first half alone — to find a wide open Rocky James at the Troy 6 yard line. One play later, Ray James scored on a 6-yard run to extend Xenia’s lead to 10-0.
Troy would answer with its own scoring drive, highlighted by a 38-yard pass from Hayden Kotwica to freshman running back Sam Jackson and capped off by a 10-yard scoring pass from Kotwica to Marc Scordia, cutting Xenia’s lead to 10-7.
That’s when things really fell apart for the Trojans.
After apparently stopping Xenia on its next drive, the Trojans were called for a personal foul on the punt, extending the Buccaneers’ drive. Two plays later, Naylor hooked up with Ray James on a 34-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Trojans were called for a holding penalty, forcing them to start on their own 14. After a quick three-and-out, the Trojans were forced to punt, giving Xenia the ball near midfield with a little more than a minute to play in the half.
That would be plenty of time for Naylor, who first found Rocky James streaking down the left sideline for a 41-yard gain. Two plays later, TeAndre James punched the ball in from a yard out, extending Xenia’s lead to 24-7 just before halftime.
Troy would show some signs of life to open the second half, as a 25-yard run by Jackson — who was making his varsity debut — set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Kotwica to Boyer, cutting Xenia’s lead to 24-14.
It was a short-lived comeback, however, as Naylor — who topped the 300-yard passing mark on the night — continued to torch the Trojans in the second half, answering almost immediately with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Rocky James, extending the Buccaneers lead to 31-14.
The remainder of the second half would be a shootout, as both team’s kept exchanging scores — which only made Troy’s early mistakes and subsequent deficit appear that much more costly.
Naylor would add his third touchdown pass of the night to Rocky James, stretching Xenia’s lead to 38-14.
Again, however, Troy refused to go away, as Kotwica — who crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season Friday — completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Zion Taylor, then completed a two-point conversion pass to Boyer, trimming Xenia’s lead to 38-22.
But once again, however, Troy’s defense could not hold as Xenia answered immediately following a recovered onside kick with another 1-yard touchdown run by Adams.
That, however, was followed by a 67-yard screen pass from Kotwica to Scordia, cutting Xenia’s lead to 45-29. After Troy’s defense got a stop and Kotwica followed with a 18-yard touchdown pass to Taylor — his fifth passing touchdown of the night, tying a school record set by Tom Myers in 1960 — to cut Xenia’s lead to 45-35.
On Xenia’s next drive, Trojan cornerback Drake McDonagh picked off a Naylor pass and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 45-42.
Xenia drove deep into Troy territory, but Troy stopped the Bucs at the Trojan 23, setting up the final drive of the game. Ultimately, however, the Trojans ran out of magic, left to wonder what could have been.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong