Big plays pro­pel Troy

Fum­ble re­cov­ery, trick play help clinch ti­tle

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS - By Sean Martin

Af­ter Troy quar­ter­back Alex Wolfe con­nected with Keyshawn Mc­mor­ris on a mid­dle screen pass late in the first half of the Fly­ing Horse’s bat­tle with Aver­ill Park, Troy wide­out Jalen El­bert missed a key block on the play. Though he quickly atoned for his mis­take.

With the game tied at 12, the War­riors de­fender that shook El­bert’s block knocked the ball loose from Mc­mor­ris, but El­bert scooped re­cov­ered it and ram­bled 36 yards for a touch­down with 53.4 sec­onds to play and give Troy an 18-12 half­time lead.

That play was one of three big plays that Troy used to knock off pre­vi­ously un­beaten Aver­ill Park 24-12 Fri­day night, clinch­ing the Class A Cap­i­tal Di­vi­sion ti­tle in the process.

“It was a good play, but it was my fault, I should have blocked him,” El­bert said. “He got loose and caused the fum­ble and I made up for it. When I saw the ball, I knew I had to make up for it and I scooped it up and ran.”

The win was the sixth in a row for Troy (6-1, 5-0) since an open­ing night loss to Schal­mont as the two-time de­fend­ing state champs pre­pare for the post­sea­son.

“I’m su­per proud of them. They are a young group of kids, a lot of in­ex­pe­ri­ence, but we’re get­ting in the right di­rec­tion and hope­fully we can con­tinue to play well,” Troy coach Bobby Burns said. “Tonight was a big step. We’ve made a lot of strides. We re­placed 22 starters from the team that won in the (Syra­cuse Car­rier) Dome last year.”

Aver­ill Park (6-1, 4-1) got its run­ning game go­ing early, scor­ing on its third play from scrim­mage on a 70-yard touch­down run by Joe Mi­lanese.

Af­ter Xavier Ward scored for Troy to tie the game at 6, War­riors quar­ter­back An­thony Chil­drose scored on a 2-yard keeper to give Aver­ill Park a 12-6 lead with 6:17 left in the first half.

With the mo­men­tum lean­ing in Aver­ill Park’s di­rec­tion, sopho­more Xavier Leigh struck for the first of his two big plays as he found run­ning room on a sweep to the left side and cut up the field for a 67-yard touch­down. That tied the game at 12.

“I saw the open­ing and I just knew I was gone,” Leigh said. “I just kept run­ning and run­ning.”

On its next drive, Aver­ill Park ven­tured into Troy ter­ri­tory be­fore Kier­nan Gilbert re­cov­ered a fum­ble for the Fly­ing Horses, set­ting up the drive that cul­mi­nated with El­bert’s go-ahead touch­down.

“We were pre­pared for a grindit-out game tonight. We were look­ing for long drives, use the clock, elim­i­nate their big plays,” Aver­ill Park coach Zach Go­bel said. “Un­for­tu­nately, that wasn’t the way it played out. Troy is a tal­ented team. The thing we were wor­ried about were bro­ken plays and big plays.”

Troy had one big play left, a play that was put into the game plan ear­lier this week, and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Grasso had the right call at the right time.

Fol­low­ing a score­less third quar­ter, Grasso called for Wolfe to lat­eral the ball to wide­out Makai Cruel on the first play of the fourth quar­ter.

Cruel got the ball and lofted a pass deep down the mid­dle of the field to a streak­ing Leigh, who took the ball in stride and sprinted to the end zone for a back­break­ing 81-yard touch­down play.

“Coach Grasso told me we were go­ing to do it. He told me to be pa­tient and I waited,” Leigh said.

Jenn March / Spe­cial to the Times Union

Aver­ill Park de­fen­sive back James Finelli chases as Troy run­ning back Xavier Leigh runs scores a touch­down on Fri­day in Troy.

Pho­tos by Jenn march / Spe­cial to the times union

troy foot­ball play­ers con­grat­u­late, Kier­nan Gilbert (21) af­ter re­cov­er­ing an Aver­ill Park fum­ble dur­ing a game on fri­day in troy. the fly­ing Horses won 24-12 to clinch the Cap­i­tal di­vi­sion ti­tle.

troy run­ning back Xavier Ward runs the ball against Aver­ill Park fri­day in troy. Ward scored a touch­down in the 24-12 vic­tory.

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