DOYLESTOWN - Mike Clark didn't even let the question finish being asked. He knew his answer, and he spoke it.
"Awesome," the Lycoming head football coach said.
And just for added emphasis, he repeated it.
There was so much Clark could have heaped praise on safety Tanner Troutman for after Saturday's 24-14 win over Delaware Valley, but the simple two-syllable adjective he repeated before the question was done being asked seemed to encapsulate it all.
Troutman played the best game of his young career Saturday afternoon. It would be hard to lose a player like Nate Oropollo and the four sacks he recorded against the Aggies in the shuffle on a normal day, but Saturday wasn't a normal day.
Troutman, a sophomore safety, did everything the coaching staff could have asked to help the Warriors put together its best defensive performance of the young season, first out of earned playing time, then out of need when Ryan Fenningham went down with a knee injury. And Troutman played every facet of the defensive game superbly yesterday.
He recorded an interception at the goal line on a potential Delaware Valley touchdown pass. He made a brilliant open-field tackle in the fourth quarter saving a touchdown which would have drawn the Aggies within one score of Lycoming's lead with more than four minutes to play. He batted down a pair of passes and separated receivers from the ball a few other times.
And just for added measure, the 160-pounder delivered the hit of the game, taking a page out of the book of Cody Butler, the player he played in place of for much of Saturday's game.
In a word, on a day where he had to be, he was awesome.
"The kid's a good football player," Clark said. "I know it sounds very simple, but he just makes plays. He's around the ball all the time. We're thrilled with him."
"He's definitely just scratching the surface of what he's capable of," Oropollo said. "He kind of got thrown in this week and we wanted to see what he's capable of. He played great."
Troutman earned his playing time with a solid performance against Brockport a week ago, a performance which included an interception. He played out of necessity when Butler, a Hughesville graduate, battled an illness for much of the week, and much of the day Saturday. He, along with Caleb Shertzer, earned even more playing time when senior Ryan Fenningham left the game in the second quarter with an injured left knee and didn't return.
And in a spot on the field which was manned for the last three years by two-time All-American Ray Bierbach, Troutman showed there's no drop off with the departure of Bierbach. He was a do-it-all kind of player.
Consider his open-field tackle on Darren Parrott in the fourth quarter occurred 32 yards downfield, and then consider he also recorded a tackle for a loss, as well, Saturday. The hits he delivered didn't seem to fit his 5-foot-10, 160-pound frame, but he delivered them nonetheless.
"I come from a small school with a lot of smaller athletes, so I'm like average size in high school, but I'm not afraid to hit," said Troutman, a Tri-Valley graduate. "You can't come play college football if you're afraid to hit people. It won't get you anywhere. So being as small as I am, if I don't hit, there's not a spot for me on the field."
"I'm not going to lie, I was a little worried about him at first because he's a little on the smaller side and I wasn't sure if he could play. But he was really popping people today," Oropollo said. "He is a hell of a safety and down the road he's going to be making bigger plays."
Troutman showed off the Warriors' improvement in the Warriors' secondary with his interception yesterday. A week after giving up more than 300 passing yards, Lycoming made the necessary adjustments to help slow down Delaware Valley's passing game.
It was a communication problem a week ago that saw Brockport be able to find open windows to make big plays. Those windows were shut down for the most part yesterday.
And when cornerback Matt Talerico ran deep down the left sideline with the Aggies' Lewis Vincent, Delaware Valley was trying to take advantage of one of the windows Brockport had exposed a week ago. But better communication allowed Talerico, a senior corner, to run with Vincent while Troutman came over from his safety spot to undercut the route and make an interception on the Lycoming 3-yard line.
"We stressed all week that the corner has to get underneath so I can get over top of the post," Troutman said. "But I didn't have that threat, so I was able to get over the top with Talerico and I was able to make a play."
"(Defensive coordinator Steve Wiser) has done a great job of getting him ready and he's done a great job all preseason," Clark said. "He's really matured. He was fantastic."