Trojans Eager to Atone for Last Year’s Losses to DeWitt

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Thursday, September 26, 2019, 1:30 pm
By: 
Mark Meyer

Putting it on the line: Ethan Boyd (from left), Patrick Nagel and Teaghn Hamilton have a challenging assignment Friday night at perennial powerhouse DeWitt.

For the East Lansing football players who were there last year, this week’s game at DeWitt needs little or no introduction.

The Trojans’ only two losses last season came at the hands of the CAAC Blue champion Panthers: once at home (37-0 on Homecoming night) and once to end the season, a 9-7 district title setback that senior lineman Patrick Nagel will use as motivation when the two teams line up at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We’re ready to get back there,” Nagel said, “and we know DeWitt will be ready for us. We feel good about where we’re at right now, but a win over DeWitt (on their field) would be big.”

Nagel and his Trojan teammates have won three of their first four games, the most recent a comeback victory over Portage Northern (35-28) at home in overtime.

A big-play, high-scoring game through two quarters – the teams were tied at 21 – evolved into more of a grind-it-out, defensive struggle in the second half. The teams traded fourth quarter touchdowns, setting the stage for the extra session and a special play that junior offensive tackle Ethan Boyd won’t soon forget.

After a one-yard gain and 10-yard penalty had moved the ball back to the 19 yard line (teams start at their opponents’ 10 yard line in overtime), East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco called for “Black Baldwin” on the Trojans’ second play. Boyd, a towering but effectively nimble presence at 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, quickly shifted from his right tackle position to a wideout on the left side. He made doubly sure that everyone in the stadium saw – and heard – him when he clapped his hands and called for the ball from quarterback Sam Busch.

“That was the goal,” Boyd said with a wide grin. “Draw the defense’s attention and confuse them. It worked perfectly, just like it had in practice.”

As Portage Northern scrambled to adjust defensively, Busch turned his attention to a wide open Jayth Joseph, who broke from the right side of the Trojans’ line untouched from his position just to the outside of Boyd before the shift. Free and clear in the Huskies’ backfield, Joseph gathered in Busch’s pass and calmly crossed the goal line.

“We needed that one, no question,” said junior offensive guard Teaghn Hamilton. “Especially at home. The loss to Grandville (59-20 in week two) set us back, but not too far. We recovered, now it’s on to DeWitt.”

The second loss to DeWitt last season, in the playoffs on a fourth quarter field goal, simmered throughout winter workouts and into the summer. Hamilton experienced the rivalry for the first time last season and is eager for the rematch. DeWitt enters Friday’s game with a similar 3-1 record, having lost 29-27 at Portland in week two.

“Both teams really get after it,” said Hamilton, who played his freshman season at Eaton Rapids before transferring to East Lansing last year. “The intensity level is high, right from the start.”

After the overtime victory over Northern, Feraco praised his team for its resiliency and poise.

“The ability to bounce back” was very important, Feraco said. “We always say that our playmakers have to make plays, and this time we got plays made from a different cast. And, after all the pounding our defense took in the latter stages of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter, to make that stand (and force a missed a field goal) with the pressure on, really speaks volumes.”

This week the Trojans have another chance to make some noise in the CAAC Blue Division, and perhaps keep the fire-breathing Panther scoreboard from lighting up as often.

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