By Rob Kiser
The Piqua football team expects to face a much improved Toledo St. John’s team when the Indians open the season on the road at 7 p.m. Friday night.
The Titans, who have a storied tradition in football, are looking to turn things around after a 2-8 season last year.
That included a 42-21 loss to Piqua in the season opener.
“They switched their offense about halfway through last season,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “They really started clicking after that.”
Senior quarterback Matt Winzeler (6-3, 185) was an honorable mention All-TRAC selection last year.
“They also have a running back who didn’t play against us and ended up rushing for almost 800 yards,” Nees said. “They have three of the starting offensive lineman back and four guys back on defense.”
Nees expects the Titans to mix things up on offense.
“That guy (Matt Winzeler) is a dual threat,” Nees said. “He can run it or throw it. They can do a lot of things on offense.”
Defensively, the Titans will play a 4-4 even front.
“They blitz on almost every play,” Nees said. “It is going to be important we pick that up. We have done a good job in our blocking schemes getting big plays running the ball. We will also need to be able to throw the ball deep. That is the way you have to attack a defense like that.”
The Indians return a number of players at the skill positions on offense and have shown the ability to move the ball on offense.
Piqua has had mixed results in the scrimmages.
They dominated Tecumseh four TDs to none, before losing to Xenia 23-21 in three quarters and falling to Springboro 36-17 in a half.
One of the biggest issues for Piqua in both those scrimmages was special teams, which was not unexpected.
“We pretty much knew who was going to play on offense and defense (going into the scrimmages),” Nees said. “The thing about special teams is you are not really sure. Now that we have solidified that, I think our coverage and return teams are going to be much better.”
Overall, Nees likes where his team is at.
“I like where we are at physically,” Nees said. “But, what I really like is where we are at above the neck. I really like our team chemistry.”
And while all three Piqua scrimmages were at home, Nees is not overly concerned about that either.
“We prepared for that this summer,” Nees said about 7-on-7s. “We went all over. We went to Bowling Green, Northmont, Dayton — so I don’t think this (the road trip) is going to be anything different.”
The Indians are hoping to get a second straight win over the Titans.
“There are 700 teams that have going at it hard,” Nees said. “Half of them are going to start the season with a win and we want to be in that group.”
Which — as they know — won’t come easy.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.