Photo by Erin Sanchez

Troy Athens edges Royal Oak 38-37 in overtime thriller

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | C&G Newspapers | Published October 10, 2023


TROY — When you talk about wins that put a program on the right track, Troy Athens will be focusing on this one for a long time.

As Royal Oak regained a 37-31 lead in overtime Oct. 6 at Athens High School, it brought an ever-so-familiar feeling for what Athens football has struggled with for years — finishing a football game.

“We talked about that at the end, because we just haven’t gotten over the hump this year and in the recent past,” Athens coach Tom Cook said. “That’s something that we struggled with a couple years ago before I was even coaching because I taught at Athens for a long time, so I’m still watching all the games.”

Luckily for Cook, Athens senior Anthony Ashor and senior quarterback Parker Ciurla made sure the team wasn’t going to suffer its second overtime loss this year. Ashor blocked Royal Oak’s extra point to hold them at 37, and Ciurla capped off the game with a 10-yard touchdown run to give Athens the 38-37 win over Royal Oak. Luke DiGiovanni nailed the game-winning extra point.

Ashor was putting pressure on Royal Oak extra points all night, and he said it gave him the confidence to get the job done on the block.

“All night long I was getting close to blocking it,” Ashor said. “I knew if I were to block this one, it would seal the game as our offense was hot.”

Ashor was spot on as the Redhawks offense was firing on all cylinders towards the end of the game.

Trailing 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, Athens put up two quick scores behind a rushing touchdown from Ashor and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Ciurla to sophomore Nathan Piggott.

Along with his passing touchdown, Ciurla ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries in the win, which included rushing scores of 49 and 37 yards.

Royal Oak regained a 31-28 lead with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Ashor answered the call with a kickoff return near midfield to set up shop for the Athens offense with one thought in mind.

“We were just thinking that if we get it down to the 35-yard line, we have a chance,” Cook said.

It was a chance for sophomore kicker Daniel Kadiu to do what he does best, and when Royal Oak got hit with a facemask penalty, Kadiu had his moment in the spotlight.

A soccer player at heart, Kadiu is known to drill 50-yard field goals in practice, so it wasn’t a shock to anyone on the Athens sidelines when the ball went right through the uprights to tie the game at 41-41 and force overtime.

Athens’ offense turned a corner in the win after scoring 14 or fewer points in three of their six previous matchups, and they’ll look to continue their success when they face hometown rival Troy on Oct. 13 at Athens High School.

Ciurla said the offensive unit will look to continue what they executed well against Royal Oak, playing a clean game of football.

“I feel like we did all the small things right,” Ciurla said.