TROY — It was as good a game as Troy could have Friday night against Vandalia-Butler.
The Trojans turned a scoreless game for much of the first half into a running clock game in the fourth quarter in a 31-victory over Vandalia-Butler to celebrate Senior Night and head into the D-II, Region 8 playoffs with momentum.
Troy will be on road for the first round of the playoffs, traveling to Cincinnati Withrow Friday night.
But the biggest moment for Troy, 6-3 overall and 6-2 in the MVL, may have come on the final snap.
Injured senior quarterback Josh Mayfield, who had taken a snap since week three against Piqua, came on to take the final snap and kneel down.
“I just wanted to be out there with my boys one last time,” Mayfield said. “It gave me closure. I know there was come concern about me getting hurt, but it worked out.”
It was Mayfield who came up with the idea during the week.
“When he brought it up, we really didn’t know what to think,”Troy football coach Dan Gress said. “But, everybody gave it the OK. Josh (Mayfield) is a program guy, so if we can give him that little slice (moment), we are happy to do it.”
As for the game itself, the Troy defense kept Butler off the board all night and once the offense got going, there was no stopping it.
The defense had two big plays in the early going.
On Butler’s second possession — which started at the Troy 35, Vandalia running back D’Marcus McKinney was running with the ball inside the Troy 20-yard line, when Wyatt Smith took the ball right of his hands and returned it to the Troy 35-yard line.
Early in the second quarter, Vandalia recovered a fumble on the Troy 18-yard line.
After having a second and two at the Troy 10-yard line, the Aviators ended up turning it over on downs at the Troy 21-yard line.
“We were struggling to move the ball early,” Gress said. “But, the defense made some big plays. There was Wyatt (Smith) stripping the ball and then that was huge stand by the defense after we fumbled.”
It wasn’t until the final two minutes of the first half when Troy finally broke the ice on offense, aided by a big penalty on Butler.
Troy put together a 79-yard drive that nearly ended early.
The Trojans were punting on fourth-and-1o from their own 34 when a roughing the snapper penalty gave Troy a first down and new life.
Then on fourth and and goal from the five, quarterback Donnie Stanley drew Butler offside with a hard count, moving the ball to the three-yard line.
Jahari Ward continued to be a touchdown maker, scoring the first of his three touchdowns on the next play and Jack Kleinhenz PAT kick made it 7-0 with 1:13 to go in the half.
But, the scoring for the half wasn’t over.
Gavin Burris stepped in front of a Butler pass on the first play after the kickoff and returned it to the Butler 20-yard line.
On the final play of the half, Cameron Stoltz kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it 10-0 at the break.
“I thought the second was big,” Gress said. “I don’t think we would have felt that good with a 7-0 lead, but that gave us some momentum.”
And the Trojans never gave it back.
They took the second half kickoff and went 60 yards in eight plays.
Ward had a 20-yard run down the seven-yard line and ran it in from the three-yard line two plays later, with Kleinhenz kicking the PAT to make it 17-0 with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter.
“That was a big,” Gress said about the opening drive of the second half. “I thought our offensive line did a great job.”
Troy’s next possession was a two-play drive.
On first-and-15 from the Butler 45-yard line, Stanley found Even Jones around the 15-yard line and Jones refused to go down until he was in the end zone. Klenhenz’ kick made it 24-0.
“That was important,” Gress said. “We had been running the ball well and we wanted to be able to throw the ball.”
In the fourth quarter, Jones intercepted a pass and returned it 52 yards to the Butler 22-yard line to set up the final score, a 6-yard run by Ward. Klenheinz PAT made the final 31-0.
Ward led the rushing attack with 67 yards on 11 carries, while Nick Kawecki had 61 yards on 19 carries.
Stanley completed three of seven passes for 58 yards.
Devon Strobel had seven tackles and a sack for the defense, while Aidan Coleman had six tackles and Gabe Cusick had one sack.
“Obviously, you want momentum going into the playoffs,” Gress said. “But, this was big because a lot of people gave up on us (after an 0-2 start). We won this game the way we have won all year, We just never stop battling.”
Signified by Mayfield taking the field for one final snap.