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NTL FOOTBALL: CANTON RALLIES LATE TO NAB SHOE FROM TROY (2020-09-11)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
TROY — Canton's theme for this year has been resiliency.

They showed it on Friday night.

Down 16 points with six minutes to go in the Old Shoe, they rallied to win in overtime 34-28 to start the NTL football season.

"Unbelievable," exclaimed Canton coach Tyler Sechrist. "I can't describe the feeling, ups and downs in that game. Our kids hung in there."

With 6:28 left to go Troy made it 28-12 on their third straight second half touchdown, but the Warriors scored 16 points in the final four minutes to send it into overtime. Once there, a Cooper Kitchen 5-yard run gave them the win.

"It just shows the true testament to who we have here as a team," said Ben Knapp. "Despite all the young guys, Cooper's first-ever varsity start and, in terms of last year, the best team in the league and to just come back from 16 down to just fight our hearts out and win this game, it says a lot about our character and who we are as a team."

Kitchen struggled early, but found his groove in the fourth quarter as he led the Warriors to the win.

"That's something special," he said. "In the beginning of the game, you could tell my nerves were going to me a little bit, I wasn't completing as many passes, but as the game went on, we switched our offense as I got used to it a little bit I felt a lot more comfortable in completing my passes and they were making plays."

Kitchen went 15-for-30 for 165 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Weston Bellows was his top target as he had six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.

Joel Schoonover had four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown while Knapp finished with 52 yards and a score on three catches.

Save for their first touchdown drive in the second quarter, Canton struggled to run the ball as they had just 84 yards on the night, led by Riley Parker's 44 on 17 carries. He also had a touchdown.

They got an emotional boost when they found out Timmy Ward was going to play with a torn ACL, but he had to leave the game in the second half.

"Things didn't look good when he went down and things kind of went backward, but the kids are resilient," said Sechrist. "That's our word for this year, and I couldn't be prouder of them."

The Trojan offense struggled in the first half, but found a groove in the second, rushing for 183 yards on 46 carries.

Caleb Binford's 87 yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches led the way while Damien Landon had 79 yards on 13 carries.

Through the air, Dom Ayers had 131 yards as went 7-for-13 with a touchdown.

His top target was Ridge Spencer, who had two catches for 80 yards and a score.

The Trojans were hurt by penalties — 11 for 85 yards, while both teams turned it over three times.

"Certainly the kids played hard on both teams," said Troy coach Jimmy Smith. "I feel like when we got up with two scores with six minutes to play, I think we let down a little bit but Canton made some plays. Some things that could have gone either way and they got it."

After a scoreless first quarter, the first touchdown of the game came on defense as Jake Deitrick scooped up a fumble and returned it 35 yards to pay dirt. Landon punched in the 2-point conversion and Troy was up 8-0 with 9:37 left in the first half.

Canton answered on the next drive, going 66 yards on seven plays, that ended on a 4th-and-goal fade from Cooper Kitchen to Weston Bellows for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was no good but the Warriors cut it to 8-6 with 6:48 left to play in the half.

Canton would score again just before the half, this time on a 10-play, 59 yard drive. A 1-yard punch from Parker was set up by a 24-yard reception by Knapp and Canton led 12-8 at the half after their 2-point conversion was no good.

In the second half, Troy retook the lead with 7:05 left in the third quarter as back-to-back big runs by Landon and Ayers set up an 8-yard Binford scamper. Landon ran in the 2-point conversion and Troy led 16-12 with 7:05 left in the quarter.

They would extend the lead with 2:58 left in the third, thanks to a 49-yard pass play from Ayers to Spencer, though the point after was no good.

After the two teams traded possessions a couple times, Troy's Binford found room down the left side of the field for a 40-yard touchdown run. The point after was no good, but the Trojans led 28-12 with 6:28 to go in the game.

Canton needed an answer on the next drive and got one as Kitchen went 5-for-7 and 60 yards, hitting Knapp on a 20-yard touchdown pass. On the 2-point conversion, Weston Bellows caught a tipped ball to cut it to 28-20 with 3:54 left to play.

The Warriors attempted an onside kick and recovered. On the ensuing drive, though, they stopped Canton as Kitchen's fourth-down pass to Knapp was knocked down by Spencer.

"He played amazing defense," said Knapp. "He got the best of me a couple times and I got the best of him a couple times."

It looked like the end for Canton — out of timeouts and two minutes to play — when Troy fumbled on their ensuing possession, giving the Warriors one last chance.

They took advantage as Kitchen went 3-for-3 from the Troy 29-yard line, ending with a 9-yard scoring pass to Schoonover. The 2-point conversion to Knapp was good with 37 seconds to play in regulation.

Their offensive coordinator, Brock Kitchen, coaches Knapp in basketball and told him to post up.

"I was like, 'I have to get a rebound," said Knapp.

In the overtime period, both teams get a chance to score from the 10-yard line.

Troy went first but was stuffed, meaning Canton just needed a score of any kind to win.

After catching Troy offsides on the first play, Kitchen ran it in on the next play from 5-yards out for the win.

"After that stop we just knew," said Knapp. "Then we got the offsides and that just shifted the momentum even more. We were in the huddle and Cooper goes 'let's just win this right now.'"

Despite their success the last three years, this win might be Canton's biggest.

"A lot of these kids have been through the last few years," said Sechrist. "10-2, 9-3 but haven't been able to win the big ones when we needed. I hope this propels us into a great season."

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IN PHOTO 1: Canton football players celebrate after beating Troy in The Old Shoe. (Photo Credit/Chris Manning)


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