Early takeaways propel Tipp past Trotwood-Madison

TIPP CITY – Tippecanoe coach Matt Burgbacher game-planned for a blocked punt all season. He never got one. But what he got early in Friday night’s playoff game was even better.

Seven points.

Two minutes into the game, the long snap to punter Timothy Carpenter, also the Trotwood-Madison quarterback, bounced along the turf. And the football bounced as footballs often do. Carpenter couldn’t get ahold of it, but Tipp’s Carson Robbins did. He scooped the wayward football and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

Robbins wasn’t part of the block group. He was on what they call fake patrol.

“I saw the punter fumbled it and I looked up and there was nobody there,” Robbins said. “I picked the ball up, and I figured there’s no better way to start a game than score a touchdown right away.”

The Red Devils didn’t dominate right away, but the early score was certainly a boost to propel them to a 43-14 victory in the Division III, Region 12 quarterfinals. The third-seeded Red Devils advance to face Mount Orab Western Brown. The second-seeded Broncos (11-1) won a back-and-forth tussle, 39-36 over Monroe.

“Great play on his part to be aware because a lot of people are just going to jump on that ball,” Burgbacher said. “But we work on that all the time: the scoop and score.”

Then the Red Devils got conventional. They scored three times in the second quarter to lead 29-0 at halftime. Another Trotwood (7-5) fumble set up a 21-yard drive and 5-yard touchdown run by Xavier Jones, the first of three for him.

Then Liam Poronsky and Evan Liette woke up the passing game. Liette got open deep for a 39-yard play to set up Jones’ second score, then caught a 40-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half. Poronsky completed 11 of 13 for 194 yards and two touchdowns.

“The speed of the game and every opponent is different, and it took us a bit to get used to that,” Burgbacher said. “Fortunately we were able to capitalize on two turnovers, and then we got in our rhythm.”

Trotwood started some drives well but wasn’t able to finish any until Tipp started pulling starters in the fourth quarter with a running clock. Carpenter scored on runs of 28 and 57 yards in the final seven minutes. He finished with 149 rushing yards and 100 passing yards. Until the scoring drives the Rams were under 200 yards of offense. Burgbacher said he laid awake at night this week worried that Carpenter’s big-play ability could be costly.

“We watched a lot of film this this week just because that offense can score,” Burgbacher said. “You saw what they did last week, and they’re a very good football team. So when we went in at 29-nothing at the half it was great that we scored 29 points, but we were very happy with the zero.”

The Rams, who started only two seniors, made big plays in last week’s 40-33 first-round win at Chaminade Julienne. But a dropped pass on third-and-nine on their opening possession would have been a first down and more. Robbins’ fumble return on the botched punt was the next play.

“That and the dropped passes and lack of effort on both sides of the ball and special teams, and our team came out real flat,” Rams coach Jeff Graham said. “I’m not taking that away from Tippecanoe. Well-coached and those guys play hard, the effort was there, they’re very disciplined. So kudos to them as far as the way they play and prepare. I hope they can keep it going and go as far as they can go because I love that coaching staff.”

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