Trojans respond in Week 3 victory: Troy puts away Butler with big 2nd half, win 28-14

Troy’s Nick Kawecki cuts through the Butler defense Friday.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

Troy’s Alex Greene sacks Butler quarterback Luke Mitchell Friday night.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

Troy’s Josh Mayfield races past the Butler defense Friday.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

Troy’s Nick Barr stiff-arms a Butler defender Friday.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

Troy’s Evan Jones runs the football Friday against Butler.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

Troy quarterback Josh Mayfield throws a pass Friday against Butler.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

Troy’s Nick Kawecki battles for extra yardage Friday against Butler.

Josh Brown | Miami Valley Today

VANDALIA — Troy football coach Dan Gress has one question he wants his Trojans to answer.

“The biggest thing is what type of team are we going to be when the going gets tough?” he said. “When it’s a close game, when we’re tied 7-7 at halftime, how are we going to respond?”

Friday night against Butler, they began to form an answer.

Sophomore running back Nick Kawecki rushed for 207 yards, including a pair of long runs that helped the Trojans dominate the field position battle in the second half, quarterback Josh Mayfield threw a touchdown pass and ran for another and La’Manual Kemp-Short rushed for a pair of scores in a 28-14 victory over the Aviators Friday at Butler High School.

Troy improved to 2-1 with the win, while Butler fell to a deceptive 0-3, given the combined record of the Aviators’ three opponents this season is 7-1.

“We told them all week that Butler is very, very mentally tough, and that we were going to be in a fist fight,” Gress said. “And it showed. We were in a fight to the end. But on the flip side, the way we responded in the second half? That’s the way we need to respond.”

The first half certainly was a slugfest, with Troy’s defense forcing a turnover on downs at its own 13-yard line on the game’s opening possession. After the Trojans were forced to punt, Butler went on a 12-play, 64-yard drive, with Luke Mitchell hitting Ryan Wilson with a 9-yard touchdown pass to put the Aviators up 7-0 with 2:30 left in the first quarter.

Troy answered quickly with a six-play, 61-yard drive of its own, with Mayfield finding Navin Couch open in the corner of the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown strike to tie the score at 7-7 heading into the second quarter.

Butler had two chances to retake the lead before halftime, but it missed a 26-yard field goal try with 6:54 on the clock. The Aviators then drove to the Troy 10 in the half’s final minute, but Alex Greene and Adam DeCerbo had sacks on back-to-back plays to push them back to the 26, and Butler’s fourth-down attempt at a fake field goal on the final play of the half went nowhere.

“That’s been our motto for over a year now, bend, don’t break,” Gress said. “We love to see that. That’s a lot of toughness to be able to go out there and do that.”

A big kickoff return set the Trojans up with good field position at the Butler 36 to start the third, and four plays later Kemp-Short punched in a 3-yard touchdown run to give Troy its first lead of the game at 14-7 with 10:30 left in the quarter.

Butler then went on a 15-play drive, but the Trojans forced a turnover on downs at their own 12-yard line — and Kawecki immediately flipped the field by breaking a 47-yard run.

“We have to be able to do that,” Gress said. “We know the holes are going to be there, and we are going to have to, just like Nick did, be able to hit it and get some explosive plays. We’ve been harping on that all summer — the biggest difference for this offense from last year, if we’re going to keep competing at a high level, has to be those explosive plays.”

After the teams traded punts, though, Troy took over on its own 28 to start the fourth. The Trojans used the one-two punch of the elusive Kawecki and the punishing Kemp-Short to power its way down the field, with Kemp-Short pounding in a 4-yard score to give the Trojans a two-touchdown lead with 5:31 remaining.

“What we love about Manny (La’Manual Kemp-Short) is, when we put him in those situations, he thrives,” Gress said. “He thrives in those situations. He’s taken to that role. And again, it starts up front with our O-linemen. It starts up front with them, because we can’t do any of that without them. When we’re leaning on Manny in those situations, we’re just as much leaning on them.”

Butler came up short on one more short fourth-down conversion attempt at the Troy 43, though, and Kawecki streaked down the field for 43 yards to again get Troy out of a tough situation. On the next play, Mayfield scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to put Troy up 28-7 with 4:36 to play. Butler’s Brayton Bishop ran in an 18-yard score with 1:42 to play, but the Trojans killed the clock from there.

Now Troy returns home in Week 4 to face rival Tippecanoe — a 2-0 team that will be coming off an unexpected bye week after its Week 3 game with Fairborn was postponed.

And the Trojans will be looking to continue answering the same question.

“Last week, the question was how do we respond after that Week 1 loss? Now, when we face a tough Tipp team, how are we going to respond in those tough situations?” Gress said.