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Valley Sports Report
TROY — Damien Landon has been a four-year staple at fullback for the Troy Trojans. The senior has gone over 1,000 yards all four seasons and had a 2,000 yard season in 2019. He gave the Trojan faithful one more vintage Landon performance as he rushed for 200 tough yards on 35 carries and added a touchdown as Troy avenged an earlier defeat to Sayre, beating the Redskins 20-6 in the quarterfinals of the District 4, Class AA playoffs here Friday night at Alparon Park.

“Damien doesn’t do it with a lot of flash,” Troy coach Jimmy Smith said. “He does it with grit and he likes those tough yards.”

Troy received the opening kickoff and took over at its own 45. A fumbled snap followed by two Landon runs set up a 4th-and-1 from the Sayre 46. The Sayre interior stood tall, though, and stuffed Landon for minimal gain, leaving Troy a half-foot short after a measurement.

Sayre’s offense took over in good field position, but was unable to capitalize and went three-and-out, punting it back to Troy.

Troy took over at its own 20-yard line, only for disaster to strike for the Trojan offense. Troy fumbled the handoff on the mid-line option and Sayre pounced on it to give the Redskins a golden scoring opportunity at the Troy 19-yard line. A Troy team that struggled with fumbles a week ago against Canton and struggled on the first two drives tonight would not put the ball on the turf again the remainder of the game.

Sayre quickly gave it right back, however. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Cody Johnson pursued a zone read from the backside and made an outstanding play, stripping the ballcarrier. Gavin Cohick jumped on it and Troy was back in business at its own 19.

The Trojan run game finally started clicking. With freshman Mason Woodward on in relief at quarterback, the Trojans marched down the field.

First, it was Landon with a 12-yard run on the drive’s second play. Then, it was Landon again on a crucial third-and-2 play from midfield taking the ball up the middle, breaking a tackle in the hole, and rumbling 38 yards to the Sayre 12.

After a toss sweep to the left by Landon was stopped at the 1-yard line, Woodward ran it in a play later. Justice Chimics’ extra point was good, and Troy led 7-0 with 2:55 remaining in the first quarter.

“We’ve been working (Woodward) in all year,” Smith said. “We were going to ride the hot hand.”

Sayre went three-and-out on the ensuing possession after Johnson broke up a pass on third down. After the Redskin punt, Troy took over at its 46.

Once again, the Trojan offense got to work. Johnson picked up a third-and-2 from the Sayre 46, advancing it to the Redskin 41. A few plays later, Jackson Taylor broke a run down to the 19.

After a penalty backed the Trojans up to a third-and-12 from the 21, Taylor took an inside counter down to the Redskin 13, setting up a pivotal fourth-and-4.

Gavin Cohick picked it up for the Trojans when he hurdled two players on the ground in the hole .A few plays later, Troy faced a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line and Taylor plowed ahead for the score. After the PAT, the score was 14-0 with 5:02 remaining in the first half.

It was time for the Sayre offense to score. After starting the drive from its 40, Brayden Horton (9 of 22, 126 yards, one TD, and two interceptions) hit cousin Luke Horton (two catches, 65 yards) wide open up the seam for a 59-yard touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt was no good, and the score was 14-6 with 4:14 remaining in the half.

Neither team could muster any more scoring in the first half and the game went to halftime with Troy leading 14-6.

Sayre received the opening kickoff of the second half and started from its own 41. The Redskins got the ball down to the Troy 12, before the drive stalled on an incomplete pass in the end zone.

The Trojan offense went three-and-out, giving the ball right back to Sayre. The Redskins had a golden opportunity on a third-down play when Horton found a teammate wide open down the right sideline. The intended target was unable to hold on, though, and the Redskins were forced to punt again.

Sayre’s best chance to score would come just after the end of the third quarter. Horton found Josh Arnold on a third-and-6 play from their own 19 on an out pattern. Arnold turned it up-field and made a few Trojans miss, with only green grass ahead of him, but he was deemed by the side judge to have stepped out-of-bounds at the Sayre 40.  Four plays later, Jayden Renzo stepped in to break up a fourth-down pass and Troy had the ball right back.

Troy would extend their lead on the next drive. One play after Landon was ruled down by contact after the ball came loose and Sayre jumped on it, he went up the gut for 22 yards to paydirt, and Troy led 20-6 with 5:44 remaining.

Sayre needed to mount a comeback, and do it quickly, but their ensuing drive stalled out when Woodward intercepted a pass down the left sideline. The Trojans ran out the remaining four minutes of the game to avenge their earlier defeat, 20-6.

“I’m not faulting their effort,” Sayre coach Kevin Gorman said. “A couple bounces here or there changes the game I think.”

Troy will advance to play one of the most storied high school football programs in America, Mount Carmel, on the road next week.

“It’s a special opportunity,” Smith said. “It’s like a college atmosphere down there.”



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