TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central players posed with the Nowak-Olson Trophy on Friday night, proudly raising three fingers, each signifying a victory over their biggest rival.
“Three years of domination!” a player bellowed out as camera shutters went off.
The Trojans (3-1, 2-0 Big North) went off as well, exploding in the second half for a convincing 42–14 Traverse City Patriot Game victory over rivals Traverse City West (3-1, 1-1 Big North) at Thirlby Field.
The victory marked the first time in series history Central topped West in three consecutive years. The Trojans also pull within one game in the all-time series, trailing the Titans 14-13.
“It’s incredible feeling,” Central senior Carson Bourdo said. “I have a lot of respect for that team. They’re a great team, and to beat them three years in a row is something that nobody’s ever done before. I’m really proud of this team and the guys that we were able to do it. It’s not an easy task at all, so I’m proud of our guys for being able to do it.”
Bourdo scored two touchdowns and intercepted a crucial second-quarter pass that prevented a driving West from potentially tying the game at 14-14 in the 10th annual TC Patriot Game — one that welcomed back fans, cheerleaders and students sections for the first time since 2019.
“It’s amazing to see our community come together like this after everything we’ve gone through through with the pandemic,” Central senior offensive lineman Brett Weaver said. “It’s amazing to see people come around from both sides of town for common cause in the Patriot Game.”
TC Central quarterback Josh Burnham’s 187 yards on 16 carries comes up just one yard shy of Adam Totten’s record for rushing yards set in 2001, tying Burnham with West’s Zac Shafer (2011).
Bourdo’s 64-yard rushing TD run ends up one shy of Christian Boivin’s 2020 record of 65 yards.
West’s Will Gaston caught 10 passes for 136 yards, just five shy of the record set by Central’s Joe Prokes in 2010, with West’s Tyler Perkette in between with 138. Those are the only three 100-yard receiving performances in series history. Gaston’s 10 catches ties Central’s Patrick O’Connor for the record O’Connor established in 2017.
“The Patriot game is won by the team that executes the best,” West head coach Greg Vaughan said. “The Trojans executed better than us in all three phases. They have a very special player in Burnham, with some outstanding players around him. You can’t get behind them or then you start to have to do things that are not what you want to do.”
Central came out of halftime leading 14-6, then put up touchdowns on all four second-half drives until kneeling to run the clock out in the final minute.
“I know we had a great offensive line, but man in the second half did they execute at a high level,” Central Head Coach Eric Schugars said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, look at us go.’ And we wore them down.”
Josh Klug scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns on runs of 7 and 2 yards, sandwiched around Brandon Konchek’s bomb to Gaston for a 74-yard touchdown that’s the second-longest passing TD in series history behind Sean Williams’ 77-yard TD to Ethan Campbell.
Burnham scored from 5 yards out early in the fourth quarter, and Bourdo went 64 yards on a receiver reverse for the game’s final score.
“We will look at film, fix our mistakes and get better,” Vaughan said. “There are five weeks left for us to see what we are made of.”
Gaylord’s 10-7 win over Petoskey puts Central all alone atop the Big North Conference as the Trojans rebounded from a season-opening loss to DeWitt in Ann Arbor.
“We have a chip on our shoulder every single week,” Bourdo said. “Ever since week one, people have been down on us. So we come out here, we show that we’re a team and we’ve got dudes who can play. We weren’t satisfied with what happened last year, so we still have stuff to prove.”
Central won 53-13 last season and 32-0 in 2019 after a string of six straight close contests decided by one score or less. Friday’s 42-14 decision puts the combined score of the last three years at 127-27 — a separation of exactly 100 points.
“This is one of those moments for seniors, you just want to let them embrace this experience,” Schugars said. “It’s just cool. What a high school moment this is for these guys, and to have Bally Sports here and just have everything surrounding this game. These kids will remember this for a long time.”
Burnham chucked one up for Bourdo for a 41-yard touchdown with 4:31 left in the first.
The Trojans took a 14-0 lead on Burnham’s 40-yard TD run, slipping a tackle near the 15 before breaking away for the score. Everest Noyes kicked both extra points.
West answered that score with a nine-play, 65-yard drive finished off by a Schermerhorn 1-yard plunge with 9:52 left before half.
Bourdo’s interception ended a 10-play West drive that threatened to tie the game.