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Trojans open season with 34-13 loss to Conrad Cowboys

by Phil Johnson
| September 8, 2013 1:16 PM

The breaks refused to go Troy High School’s way Friday night as the football Trojans dropped their season opener 34-13 to Conrad.

The game began with an offside penalty against Troy on the opening kickoff and flags flew frequently as both teams worked to shake rust in their first game.

Conrad running back Brandon French initiated the scoring in the first quarter with a dive into the end zone on a six-yard sweep left. After quarterback Shane Larson’s two-point conversion, the Cowboys caught the Trojans off-guard when they recovered an onside kick.

The Troy defense stood tall the next possession and both offenses struggled to get much going early. Midway through the second quarter Troy faltered at the goal line when a fourth-down pass from senior quarterback Gabe Hickman was knocked down in the end zone. But a roughing the passer penalty made it first and goal from the three-yard line. New hope was lost the next play when Hickman fumbled and Conrad recovered.

After a quick stop, Troy regained possession and appeared to have scored with 2:09 remaining in the first half when Hickman completed a 24-yard touchdown pass, only to have the play called back on a false-start penalty. The score was 8-0 Conrad at halftime.

“That fumble hurt us, but Hickman consistently makes something out of nothing,” Troy Coach Jim Dasios said. “That was a questionable call to bring that touchdown pass back.”

Several parents made the 275-mile drive from Conrad to support their team. Roger Paulsen, 45, and his father Cliff Paulsen, 73, made the five-hour trip to watch freshman tight end and defensive back Bert Paulsen.

“It was a pretty drive,” Roger said. “And high school football is a good reason to take a day off work. 

The Paulsen family goes generations back in Conrad. Cliff recently retired from CHS Inc. and Roger acts as the clock operator for home games. Cliff did not stop smiling as he walked the sidelines with his son.

Conrad received to open the second half after deferring when they won the opening coin toss. Their opening second-half drive culminated in a touchdown when Larson executed a beautifully deceiving read-option keeper and ran 58 yards on fourth-and-three. A botched snap on the PAT made it 14-0.

Troy responded with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Luke Haggerty midway through the third quarter. A failed two-point conversation left the score at 14-6.

A seven-yard touchdown rush by Larson late in the third quarter capped a long drive that made it 20-6. The Trojans’ defense began showing signs of fatigue as the Cowboys’ no-huddle offense took its toll.

The Troy offense responded when Hickman scored on a quarterback keeper early in the fourth quarter. A strong kick by senior lineman Bruce Metz brought the score to 20-13.

 While the Troy offense came to life in the second half, the defense was unable to make the key stop. With 8:32 left Blake “Skeeter” Underdahl scored on an 11-yard rush. He also converted the ensuing two-point conversion.

The 5-foot-6, 140-pound junior excelled in his first game at running back, tallying 88 yards on 10 carries for two touchdowns. Even more impressive is the fact that Underdahl played with a recently broken right hand that swelled throughout the game.

The bounces continued to go Conrad’s way when a Hickman pass deflected off a receiver’s hands and was caught by a Cowboy’s defender with 6:48 remaining. Conrad sealed the game on an Underdahl score that followed consecutive long touchdown runs that were called back on penalties.

 “We were never able to force a turnover,” Dasios said after the game. “We are a young team. We start three sophomores on the line, and they need time to gel. It wasn’t a win, but it was not a bad start to the season. We will get in better shape.”

Both teams counted nine two-way starters, and the benefit of the early breaks expanded as fatigue set in.

“I’m proud of our team,” first-year Conrad Coach Mick Morris said. “The six-hour bus ride home will be a lot more fun celebrating a win.”