By Rob Kiser
As Ben Schmiesing did postgame interviews following Piqua football team’s 33-27 win over Vandalia-Butler Friday night, he wasn’t about to let the Fox 45 Thursday Night Lights trophy that goes to the winning team out of his grip.
And in reality, that signifies what Schmiesing is all about.
The standout linebacker/running back — who will be a preferred walk-on at Ohio State — made the heads up play that sealed the win for the Indians by stripping the ball from a Vandalia receiver to give Piqua the ball and allow the Indians to run the clock out.
But, that isn’t really what matters to him.
After carrying the ball eight times for 34 yards in the opening half, he carried the ball 12 times for 85 yards in the final two quarters.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether I am blocking or running the ball (on offense),” Schmieisng said. “I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win. I knew our defense would make a big play at the end.”
It is no surprise to anyone who has played with or watched Schmiesing the last three years that is just happened to be him that made the play.
Play-Makers: Big-time players make big time plays — and if you look at the stats, there is no question who those guys are in the Piqua offense.
Taking nothing away from receiver Cale Mecksroth, tight end Derek Hite and running back Devon Brown — who have made big plays all season, good things happen when the ball is in the hands of Schmiesing and senior receiver Hayden Schrubb.
Piqua had four third down conversions in the game and three fourth-down conversions — four of those were completions from quarterback Austin Davis to Schrubb and the other three were runs by Schmiesing. The trio also accounted for all five Piqua touchdowns.
I’ve Got You Cous: Davis and Schrubb having being throwing footballs to each other for a long time. So, it was no suprise that two hooked up for four touchdowns, including 30 and 29 yarders on fourth downs. And in both cases, Schrubb had yet to break open when Davis let go of the ball.
“Everybody knows we are cousins,” Davis said. “Definitely (there is a trust there). I know if I put the ball up there, he will go get it.”
Schrubb agreed there is a special bond between the two.
“We definitely have a chemistry,” Schrubb said. “I know when the ball is up there, I have to go get it.”
Game-Changer: You can point to three key possessions in the second quarter for changing Piqua’s fortunes.
Vandalia-Butler had opened up a 13-0 lead, making 10 first downs on its first three possessions, while Piqua had just one.
First, Piqua put togetther a 75-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard pass from Davis to Schrubb on third-and-seven.
Then, on Vandalia’s first play after the kickoff, Jacob Bushnell made a leaping interception near midfield — then, after a 13-yard pass from Davis to Schrubb converted a third-and-eight, they hooked up on a 30-yard pass for a touchdown on fourth-and-four. Schrubb’s second PAT kick made it 14-13 Piqua.
Extra Duties: Schrubb, forced into kicking duties by the injury to Robbie Comstock, was up to the challenge. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on PAT attempts. Piqua’s two missed PATs were missed connections between the snapper and the holder.
No Breaking: When you look at the fact Vandalia converted eight of 13 first downs and two of four fourth downs, you might think it was a good night for the Aviators. But, Piqua’s defense made the plays when they had to — as well as coming up with two big turnovers.
Up To Challenge: Brown, Piqua’s 5-foot-9 defensive back, may have had the biggest challenge of the night. His assignment was to cover 6-foot-5 receiver Bryant Johnson. While Johnson had two touchdowns and five receptions, Brown made the two biggest plays of the night.
With the game tied at 27 with a little over five minutes remaining, Vandalia had a third-and-eight at the Piqua 26. On third down, with Johnson juggling the pass, Brown came up and batted it away — then knocked down the fourth down pass at the goal line to give Piqua the ball — and set up the winning drive.
No Doubts: Even after Piqua failed to get the PAT and led just 33-27, no doubts crept in to a team that had dealt with some close losses this season.
“Vandalia was going to have to get seven points to win the game,” Nees said. “To do that, they were going to have to get in the end zone and our defense wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Next Stop Record Books: Schrubb is now just 15 yards away from the career receiving mark and is closing in on the single-season record as well.
Still Perfect: The win ran Piqua’s record to 2-0 in Thursday Night Lights games after a romp over Sidney last year.
And Schmiesing provided the perfect finish.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.