By Rob Kiser
It is everything you could want in a high school football rivalry.
The Piqua and Troy football teams will meet for the 132nd time Friday night at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Piqua leads the series 63-62-6.
Not only is it the final regular season game for both teams — it is for the GWOC American North title.
Piqua comes into the game 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the GWOC American North, while Troy comes in 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the GWOC American North.
“It just adds to the game,” Piqua coach Bill Nees said.
And, while the Indians are riding a seven-game win streak, Troy’s only loss came to Miamisburg in the final 10 seconds of the game.
The Trojans have locked up a home game in the Division II playoffs, while Piqua needs a win to assure themselves a berth in the Division III, Region 12 playoffs.
Yes, there are some key games that could help the Indians.
A New Richmond win over Norwood, an Edgewood win over Mount Healthy, a Vandalia-Butler win over Tippecanoe and a Chillicothe win over Wilmington could all help the Indians — and some of those games are projected to go that way.
But, a win Friday would make it simple.
But, that will be a big challenge against a Trojans program that has experienced a compete turnaround in Matt Burgbacher’s second season as coach.
The offense has both one of the league’s leading rushers — as well as the fifth leading passer.
Senior running back Josh Browder (5-9, 192) is second in the GWOC in rushing with 1,124 yards and 16 touchdowns on 140 attempts, while senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica (6-1, 169) has rushed for 671 yards on 128 carries with eight touchdowns and completed 87 of 153 passes for 1,413 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
The Trojans feature a balanced receiving corp.
Senior Zion Taylor (5-10, 141) has 15 catches for 255 yards and four TDs, while Browder has 15 receptions for 292 yards and two TDs.
Sophomore tight end Spencer Klopfenstein (6-2, 200) has 14 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown, while senior receiver Hayden Jackson (5-7, 150) has 13 catches for 221 yards and two scores.
“They (Hayden Kotwica, Josh Browder) are really good and they have talented corp of receivers,” Nees said. “They have an outstanding offensive line, so they are strong all the way around.”
It is more of the same on defense, where Troy will show a 50 look.
Six players have 46 or more tackles, led by senior linebacker Michael Murray (6-0, 211) with 54.
Junior defensive lineman Josh Schricker (5-11, 205) has 52 tackles and seven sacks, while junior defensive lineman Christian Nation (5-9, 222) and sophomore linebacker Shane Shoop (5-6, 174) have four each.
Quarterbacks need to be wary of sophomore Sam Jackson (5-11, 196) who has six interceptions in the secondary.
“They are very similar to Vandalia and Tippecanoe’s defense,” Nees said. “They play a 50-shade. They don’t blitz a whole lot.”
Piqua is coming off a big win over Tippecanoe 27-20, where the Indians played well on both sides of the ball.
The Indians ran for 291 yards in the game and were able to run the last three-plus minutes off the clock to seal the win with running backs Allen Schrubb (6-1, 237, senior) and Ben Schmiesing (6-2, 197, junior).
Schrubb has rushed for 958 yards and 17 touchdowns on 135 carries, while Schmiesing has 678 yards and nine touchdowns on 123 carries.
“That was a credit to our offensive line,” Nees said. “And both backs being really unselfish and doing a great job blocking for each other.”
At the same time, junior quarterback Austin Davis (5-11, 200) was laser sharp — completing 12 of 14 passes for 103 yards.
For the season, Davis has completed 61 of 101 passes for 813 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception.
Junior Hayden Schrubb (6-2, 163) has 23 catches for 381 yards and and three touchdowns, while Schmiesing has caught 18 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior tight end Nathan Monnin (6-5, 249) has 11 catches for 123 yards and two scores, while senior receiver Caleb Patton (6-2, 172) has 10 catches for 75 yards.
“I think we have gotten to the point where we can throw when want to,” Nees said. “That does (open up the offense).”
Defensively, Piqua held Tippecanoe to two field goals in the first half.
While they gave up two touchowns in the second half, one of them came on a tipped pass.
Senior defensive back Dylan Cole (6-1, 196) leads the team with 76 tackles, while Schmiesing has 59 tackles and three interceptions and senior defensive back Hunter Hawk (5-10, 158) has two.
“I thought holding Tipp (Tippecanoe) to field goals in the first half was pretty good,” Nees said. “We had that tipped ball (for a score) in the second half. We really only gave up one big play (a 60-yard run by Nyles Anderson) on a double handoff. Against that offense, that is pretty good.”
It seems like a long time ago that Piqua was 1-2 after two consecutive losses.
“The kids have worked hard and continued to get better,” Nees said. “And we still feel like there is plenty of room for that (improvement).”
As for the experience of “Troy Week”, Nees said his players know how to manage their time this week.
“The two biggest things are being well rested and well fed come Friday night,” Nees said. “Don’t miss any meals and don’t do anything that will lead to missing sleep.”
Because they will need to leave it all on the field Friday night in a game this big.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.