Troy Athens Rallies to Beat West Bloomfield
Homecoming win leaves Red Hawks just one win away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2001, while West Bloomfield will look to rebound against Rochester.
Troy Athens High School survived a scare against West Bloomfield, as the Red Hawks made two key fourth-down stops in the final quarter to preserve a 27-17 victory in an Oakland Activities Association Red Division football matchup Friday night.
With the win on homecoming night, Athens improved to 5-1 on the season and 4-1 in the OAA Red, leaving the Red Hawks just one win away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2001.
The turning point in the game came with West Bloomfield leading 17-14 and facing a 3-and-1 from its own 46-yard line with less than six minutes to play. After the Lakers were stopped in the backfield by Troy Athens’ lineman Branden Terry and Kento Mori on that play, West Bloomfield was called for a false start on fouth-and-1 and lined up to punt. However, on the ensuing punt Athens was called for running into the kicker, giving the Lakers a shot at another play.
West Bloomfield (2-4, 2-3) elected to go for the first down, but on the next play running back Jalen Campbell was stopped immediately in the backfield by Terry, turning the ball back over to the Red Hawks.
“I had to blow up the line to stop the play, and I had to go harder than I ever had in the game so far,” Terry said.
With good field position, Athens needed just five plays to take the lead for the first time in the game. After a Ben Bartnowak run set up first-and-goal, junior Sam Haskell took a handoff and raced around the left tackle for a 10-yard touchdown with 2:23 left. The Red Hawks led 20-17 following a missed extra point.
Troy Athens stopped West Bloomfield again on fourth down on the Lakers’ next possession, and on the next play Haskell scored again from 11 yards out to make the score 27-17 and clinch the game for the Red Hawks.
Troy Athens coach Josh Heppner said he was especially pleased with his defense’s effort late in the game.
“Our defense has been coming up huge, and they’ve been making big plays for us all year long,” Heppner said. “They stepped up when we needed them to step up.”
Heppner said he was proud of the way the Red Hawks were able to battle back from an early deficit.
“It just goes to show the resiliency of this team,” Heppner said. “This is a big win for us, and it puts us one more win closer to going to the playoffs, and these guys deserve it.”
Early on in the game, it appeared West Bloomfield was on its way to pulling off an upset. The Lakers scored first on a six-yard run by Campbell in the second quarter, and increased their lead to 10-7 at halftime following a 29-yard field goal by Connor Genrich.
West Bloomfield scored again just two minutes into the second half on a 15-yard run by Matt Farrow. The score gave the Lakers a 10-point lead, but they were unable to hold on for the victory.
Farrow led West Bloomfield with 103 yards on 17 carries, while Campbell added 53 yards on 12 carries. C.J. Braithwaite also had a solid day for the Lakers with 75 yards on 11 carries.
Athens will look to clinch a playoff berth next week when they square off with the OAA Red leader, Lake Orion, while West Bloomfield will look to rebound against Rochester.