By Rob Kiserman
The Piqua football team couldn’t wait to get back on the field Friday night and put a two-game losing streak behind them.
The Indians showed that early, jumping out to a 24-3 lead, then delivered the knock-out blow at crunch time in the second half in a 37-17 win over Fairborn at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
“That is one of the things we talked about,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “We wanted to get back on track and build up some momentum heading into GWOC North play.”
Both teams started the game with long drives, but had to settle for field goals.
Piqua used an efficient passing game to move from its 12 to the Fairborn 1o.
Rupert Delacruz completed passes of 27 yards to Noah Lyman, two yards to Hunter Hawk and 11 and 10 yards respectively to Nathan Monnin.
Lyman booted a 27-yard field goal after the drive stalled to get Piqua on the board.
Fairborn quarterback Wesley Watts hooked up with Brandon Easterling on a 32-yard pass play that led to a 33-yard field goal by Adam Knaub to tie the game.
Piqua then began to take control.
The Indians went 51 yards on their next possession, with Delacruz hooking up with Hawk for 22 yards on a second-and-17 from the Fairborn 28. Darien Tipps-Clemons ran six yards for the score and Lyman’s kick made it 10-3.
On Fairborn’s next possession, quarterback Brent Grody tried to get rid of the ball as he was being pressured and delivered it right into the arms of Piqua defensive lineman Josh Potter at the Fairborn 42.
Allen Schrubb had a 24-yard run and on fourth-and-14 from the 21, Delacruz ran for the first down at the seven.
Two plays later, Tipps-Clemons went wide and ran eight yards for a score, with Lyman’s kick making it 17-3 with 6:21 remaining in the first half.
“That was a huge run by Rupert (Delacruz) to keep the drive going (and get points off the turnover),” Nees said.
After a Fairborn three-and-out, Derek Hite broke through to block the punt and Monnin recovered in the end zone for a Piqua TD. Lyman’s kick made it 24-3 with 4:48 to go in the half.
“The interception kind of got things started,” Nees said. “Then we had the blocked punt and things just kind of snowballed.”
To Fairborn’s credit, they battled back.
The Skyhawks put together a 12-play drive, with Grody throwing nine yards to Easterling for the score. Knaub’s kick made it 24-10 with 1:01 to go in the half and that’s the way the team’s went to the locker room.
“Their quarterback had a lot of time to throw on that drive,” Nees said. “That was our biggest concern going to the second half.”
Fairborn opened the second half with a 67-yard drive and Watts threw 12 yards to Gracen Barnhart for the score. Knaub’s kick made it 24-17 with 7:54 to go in the third quarter.
Piqua drove to the Fairborn four, but sacks consecutive plays turned the ball back over on downs to the Skyhawks.
“We felt like the kids had been spending too much times diagnosing things instead of playing,” Nees said. “There were a few instance tonight, but for the most part we did a better job of doing that (just playing).”
After a 28-yard loss when Hite stripped the ball from Grody on a sack, Fairborn had to punt early in the fourth quarter.
“Our defensive line just got after it in the second half and took control,” Nees said.
Three plays later, Tipps-Clemons exploded through the line on a 55-yard TD jaunt and Lyman’s kick made it 31-17 with 10:25 remaining in the game.
Tipps-Clemons had 105 yards on his first three carries of the second half after just 37 yards in the first half.
“That (making the big run) is what he (Darien Tipps-Clemons) does,” Nees said. “At one time or another, he is going to get you.”
Tyrese Basil had a fumble recovery on Fairborn’s next drive and Schrubb would finish Piqua’s scoring with a 47-yard run up the middle, making the final 37-17.
“Fairborn is a talented team,” Nees said. “All there losses have been close games. They are not that far away from winning.”
Unofficially, Clemons had 175 yards on 15 carries, including 148 after halftime. Schrubb added 85 yards on six carries and Delacruz completed seven of 14 passes for 90 yards.
Fairborn’s two quarterback combined to complete 18 of 30 passes for 173 yards, but Piqua recorded five sacks in the game.
While the Skyhawks dropped to 1-4, Piqua improved to 3-2 and will host Vandalia-Butler Friday — and going into the GWOC North opener with plenty of momentum.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.