HEWITT — Ronnie Porter likes when his star running back plays angry and admitted as much moments after his Troy Trojans finalized a 9-7 win over Whitney in a Class 3A Division I Region III semifinal Friday night at Panther Stadium.
Troy’s head coach had plenty of praise to heap upon Zach Hrbacek’s performance, at the forefront of which was Hrbacek’s intensity.
“You can see it in his eyes. He’ll come off the field and I’ll ask him, ‘Are you mad?’ And he’ll kind of nod his head. I like it when he’s mad,” said Porter, whose team set a program record for most wins in a season and set up a clash with defending state champion Grandview (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Waco ISD Stadium. “He plays a little extra hard when he gets mad.”
Hrbacek ran for 287 yards on 33 carries and recorded Troy’s only touchdown. After the Trojans (12-1) struggled to incorporate the passing scheme in the first half, Porter stuck with the ground attack as Troy opted against throwing the ball after halftime.
Trailing 7-0 at the break, Troy started the second half with a seven-play, 54-yard drive — all runs by Hrbacek, who scored on a 5-yard touchdown run.
“I felt very fortunate to go into halftime only down by seven,” Porter said. “I thought we made a lot of mistakes and gave them some field position in some undesirable areas. Being able to come out of the half down by seven was huge.”
Troy’s defense, which limited Whitney (11-2) to 214 total yards, produced on the next series. The Wildcats started their drive at their 14-yard line, and Whitney running back Juan Saucedo (114 yards rushing) failed to handle the ill-timed snap on first down before recovering the ball in the end zone. A swarm of Troy defenders swallowed up Saucedo for a safety and a 9-7 Trojans lead with 8:09 left in the third quarter.
“It was really a (Hrbacek) special tonight, but I’m going to tell you, (Sam Jones) played well tonight. (Beau Workman) played well tonight. Heck, even the quarterback became a factor and I wasn’t sold on him being a factor, but he became a big factor,” said Whitney head coach Mark Byrd, whose team intercepted Presley on Troy’s last three possessions of the first half. “We’ve left points on the board the last three weeks. We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities tonight.”
Whitney jumped ahead in the first quarter by going 68 yards in eight plays and establishing a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard run by Dez Garner with just less than 3 minutes in the books.
Jones and the defense held strong after that. Jones tackled Devin Wilson for a loss on fourth down on Whitney’s next drive and had a key 10-yard sack on third down of the Wildcats’ following possession that kept them from adding onto their lead.
“The key was to stop big plays on third and fourth down,” Porter said. “They’re very athletic and elusive. That was the key, just putting athletes on the field and containing them.”
Offensive opportunities were squandered by both teams, but none so much as a sequence in the second quarter.
Trailing by a touchdown, Presley drove Troy to the Wildcats 9-yard line before throwing his second interception that was corralled by Wilson, who then broke up field and appeared to have a sure touchdown. However, Wilson saw a penalty flag and slid down at the Troy 40, assuming the call was against his team. Instead, it was penalty against Troy, and Wilson’s slide likely negated what could have been a 14-0 lead for Whitney.
“We definitely could have led at halftime 21-0,” Byrd said. “You leave a bunch of points like that hanging around and eventually it’s going to pop. Those things happen.”
TROY 9, WHITNEY 7
Whitney 7 0 0 0 — 7
Troy 0 0 9 0 — 9
Whi — Dez Garner 11 run (Jordan Newton kick)
Troy — Zach Hrbacek 5 run (Josh McKissisk kick)
Troy — Safety; tackle in end zone
First downs 10 16
Rushes-yards 31-157 46-338
Passing yards 57 5
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-11-1 1-6-3
Punts-average 3-42 4-36
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-35 7-40
RUSHING — Whitney: Juan Saucedo 17-114, Devin Wilson 10-50, Garner 2-11, Garrett Peacock 2-(-18); Troy: Hrbacek 33-287, Sam Jones 9-34, Ben Presley 3-11, Xavier Hernandez 1-6.
PASSING — Whitney: Wilson 3-6-0-36, Peacock 2-5-1-21; Troy: Presley 1-6-3-5.
RECEIVING — Whitney: Kolby Tanner 3-37, Ty Richters 1-14, Wilson 1-6; Troy: Jones 1-5.