By: Aaron Pyle
In the final game of the regular season, Oct. 23, the Trojans were defeated by the Frontenac Raiders by a score of 26-6. Following the loss, the Trojans traveled to Columbus once again to face the #1 seeded Titans (8-0) in the first round of the district playoffs. Earlier in the season, Sept. 18, the two teams met where the Titans defeated the Trojans 26-7.
The Titans (8-0) came into the first round of districts fresh off a 47-16 victory over Caney Valley (6-4). Columbus was led by junior running back Gabe Martin who finished the game with six total touchdowns.
In the first quarter, the Trojans defense started with a bang forcing a fumble then recovering the ball at the Columbus 20-yard-line. The Trojans started sophomore Luke Niggemann at quarterback and would leave him in for the entirety of the game. Senior Connor Olivera capitalized on the field positioning with a 17-yard touchdown to begin the game. Sophomore Garrett Humble would miss the extra-point attempt.
The two sides exchanged possessions throughout the first quarter until Columbus responded with a 51-yard passing touchdown. Missing the field goal, the score was tied 6-6.
A couple plays into the ensuing drive for Girard, Niggemann would escape the pocket and scramble down the field for a 56-yard touchdown to put Girard ahead once again. Humble nailed the extra-point attempt as Girard led 13-6 with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Neither team would put up points until two minutes into the second quarter when the Titans would capitalize on 4th down by scoring a two-yard touchdown. Columbus misses the two-point conversion as Girard retained the lead, 13-12.
As less than four minutes remained in the first half, the Trojans were able to get another key turnover as Girard recovered a fumble from Columbus setting up the Trojans at their 43-yard-line.
Olivera and junior Ethan Merrell helped the Trojans, with their running game, push the ball into the red-zone as the clock ticked down to the final minute. That’s when Niggemann connected with senior Mason Huebner for a 10-yard touchdown as 30 seconds remained in the first half. Girard failed to complete the two-point conversion.
At halftime, the Trojans led the Titans 19-12.
Beginning the second half, sophomore Aiden Damman helped give the Trojans better field positioning by bringing the ball to the Trojans 43. Girard continued their attack within the passing game as Niggemann helped move the chains downfield. A pass interference call by the Trojans would put the Trojans out of the red-zone after driving down the field.
Unphased by the mistake, Niggemann launched a pass downfield to senior Logan Thomas for a Trojans’ touchdown. Humble once again made the extra-point attempt to put Girard up 26-12 with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Titans remained cold for the majority of the third quarter as the Trojans were able to contain the rushing attack of Martin after his performance against Caney Valley. The two sides offenses went cold for the entirety of the third quarter as well as the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Following a three and out by Columbus with eight minutes remaining, a short punt by the Titans set up the Trojans at the Titans 12-yard-line. The Titans defense responded by holding the Trojans to a fourth down and that’s when Humble came in for a 16-yard field goal attempt. Humble nailed the field goal through the uprights as Girard extended the lead to 29-12 with 7:30 remaining in the final quarter.
Columbus responded on the ensuing drive off a one-yard run after driving down the field with their relentless passing game. The Titans failed the two-point conversion as Girard remained in the lead, 29-18, with just under five minutes left to play.
From there, the Trojans were able to milk the clock and capture the victory over the Titans by a score of 29-18. Girard not only defeated the undefeated/top seed Titans, but the Trojans also held a team averaging 24 points a game this season to only 18 points.
“I told our guys that was a lot of fun,” said Coach Neal Philpot. “I know we’ve been better than what we’ve been and hands down this was our best complete game. Kids played hard, believe it and bought into some of the stuff we’ve done…I felt if we come down here, play our way, execute, play physical and do the things we’ve been doing that we’d come away with the win. Very happy for them.”
The Trojans (4-5) move onto the next round of district play where they will face Prairie View (7-1) Friday, Nov. 6 as the Buffaloes will host. Girard will look to stop a Buffaloes team that defeated Caney Valley 44-16 in the first round of the district playoffs.