BELTON — After a punt and two interceptions on the Troy Trojans’ first three drives of the season, sophomore running back Zach Hrbacek wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
Hrbacek’s 35-yard touchdown run put the Trojans on the board late in the first half, and his second score late in the game sealed Troy’s 15-6 season-opening win over the Salado Eagles at Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Crusader Stadium night.
“My hat goes off to that kid because that was amazing, the numbers he put up,” Troy coach Ronnie Porter said of his running back’s 184-yard performance. “He was just determined he wanted to score more than they were determined they were going to stop him.”
The Trojans moved the ball well on their first three possessions, getting into Salado territory each time. But a bad snap on their first possession killed their momentum and forced a punt from their own territory. The next two drives ended with interceptions inside the red zone.
The second interception gave the Eagles the ball on their 12-yard line and they only moved to the 23 before having to punt, giving the Trojans the ball near midfield.
A series of short runs got the ball to the 35. On first down, Hrbacek took an off-tackle sweep to the right, found an opening down the sideline and put Troy up 7-0 after Beau Workman’s extra point.
“It was nice getting in, but I knew we needed more after that,” Hrbacek said of the touchdown.
He was right as the Eagles closed the gap on their second possession of the second half when Tate Harvey scored on fourth-and-goal from the 3, a play set up by a 71-yard run by Hunter Turk to the Troy 1. The extra point was wide, leaving the Trojans up by a point with left in the quarter.
Midway through the final period, the Eagles also had a bad snap on a field goal attempt, giving Troy the ball at its 23 with to play. From there, the Trojans methodically moved down field and faced fourth-and-goal from the 2 with less than a minute remaining. Hrbacek got the handoff, broke away from a couple of defenders and put the Trojans up 13-6.
“I was bound and determined I was going to score, and win the game for us” he said.
It wasn’t quite over because the Eagles blocked the extra-point kick, but Workman recovered it and broke three tackles to get into the end zone and make it 15-6.
“You know we get that recovery, then go down and score, we can tie it up,” Salado coach Alan Haire said. “But hats off to them, they made a play.”
The outcome was much different than last season’s 33-0 win by the Eagles when the Trojans fielded a young team. This year, it was Salado that started 11 players who had no varsity experience, including all three running backs.
Turk led the tandem with 89 yards on eight carries, and Connor Cook added 74 on 17 carries.
“When you graduate 24 (players), that’s what happens,” Haire said. “We have a new group. We have to coach them up, but I’m proud of what they did and am excited to see what we can build on.”