Big plays propel Troy
Fumble recovery, trick play help clinch title
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.
Averill Park defensive back James Finelli chases as Troy running back Xavier Leigh runs scores a touchdown on Friday in Troy.
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.