TIPP CITY — Few people outside the Tippecanoe football program expected this year’s team to still be standing after two weeks of the playoffs at the beginning of practice back in August.
Understandable, considering the Red Devils returned just two starters on offense and one on defense.
But, Tippecanoe coach Matt Burgbacher, his coaching staff and the players themselves knew better.
“I don’t think many people thought we would be where we are at now,” Burgbacher said with a smile after the Red Devils advanced to the D-III regional semifinals with a 43-14 win over Trotwood-Madison Friday night at Tipp City Park.
Tipp, 11-1, opened a 29-0 halftime lead and expanded it to 43-0 after three quarters before emptying the bench.
The Red Devils will play Western Brown at 7 p.m. Friday night at a site to be announced Sunday.
And on Friday night, Tipp used the big play — in all three phases of the game — to take control of the game.
“That’s the way it has been all season,” Burgbacher said. “It is always somebody different every week.”
And it started on Trotwood’s first possession.
After one first down, the Rams were forced to punt.
When the punter dropped the snap, Tippecanoe’s Carson Robbins picked it up and ran 20 yards for the score.
Following Jackson Kleather’s PAT kick, Tipp led 7-0 with 10:00 remaining in the first quarter.
“That was huge play,” Burgbacher said. “What a heads up play by Carson (Robbins) to scoop and score.”
Later in the first quarter, a hit by DJ Martin jarred the ball loose and Eli Moore recovered for Tippecanoe on the Trotwood 21-yard line.
On the first play of the second quarter, Xavier Jones ran for the first of his three touchdowns, this one from six yards out.
Kleather’s kick made it 14-0 with 11:55 remaining in the half.
“Our defense really stepped up tonight,” Burgbacher said. “Trotwood is a scary team to go up against. They have a lot of athletes and speed.”
Tipp then added two scores set up by the big play combination of Liam Poronsky throwing to Evan Liette.
On a 79-yard drive, the two hooked up on a 39-yard pass to the Trotwood 10, which led to another 6-yard TD run by Jones and a Kleather PAT kick.
Tipp got the ball back with 1:07 back in the half and added another score.
On first and 10 from the Rams 40-yard line, Poronsky found Liette behind the Trotwood defense for a touchdown with just 16. seconds left in the half.
When the snap was low on the PAT, Kleather picked it up and ran it in for two points to give Tipp a 29-0 lead at the break.
“I thought getting that score just before half was huge,” Burgbacher said.
In the second half, a 45-yard pass from Poronsky to Liette would lead to a 3-yard TD run by Jones and a Kleather PAT kick.
Poronsky would have a 26-yard run on Tipp’s next possession before throwing a 29-yard pass to Stanley Clyne for the score and Kleather added Tipp’s final point on the PAT kick.
Trotwood quarterback Timothy Carpenter III would run for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and throw to Robert Garrett for a two-point conversion for the final margin.
Poronsky would complete 11 of 13 passes for 205 yards, with Liette catching three passes for 124 yards.
Jones would lead the rushing attack with 88 yards on 25 carries.
Blake Thompson would lead the defense with six tackles, while Maddox Sivon and Christian Hartman both had five tackles.
Carpenter completed 13 of 22 passes for 89 yards for the Rams and ran 13 times for 122 yards.
Malachai Johnson led the Rams defense with seven tackles and Keymaurie Henderson had six tackles.
“We are excited to be where we are at,” Burgbacher said. “But, the best part is we are not done yet.”
Which is no surprise to Burgbacher and his team.
Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]