By Rob Kiser
Piqua was a fumble recovery away from having a shot at sending Friday night’s game with returning D-III state runnerup Trotwood-Madison into overtime — but the ball eluded them twice on the turf at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field and the Indians came up on the short end of a 42-35 score.
Austin Davis threw a 33-yard TD strike to Hayden Schrubb with 3:10 to play and Robbie Comstock’s seventh PAT of the game got Piqua back within 42-35.
Davis finished the game going 20-for-31 for 284 yards and Schrubb had 10 catches for 140 yards.
“Austin (Davis) threw the ball well and the line did a pretty good job blocking,” Piqua football coach Nees said. “Hayden (Schrubb) was a beast out there.”
With just one time out left, Piqua elected to try an onside kick.
The ball bounced beyond the first wave of Trotwood players and Mick Karn just missed recovering the ball before it went out of bounds at the Trotwood 43.
A few plays later, Trotwood running back Raveion Hargrove fumbled on a short run, but the ball bounced right back to him as he came down on the ground and the Rams were able to run out the clock.
“Anytime, you are playing a team that was in the state championship game the year before and the game comes down to an onside kick, you are going to get better,” Nees said. “Obviously, it was a close game. We played well.”
The game had started with the Piqua defense getting a three-and out and the Indians went 73 yards on 14 plays on their first possession.
Ben Schmiesing had a 10-yard run down to the 10-yard line and two plays later, Derek Hite hauled in an 11-yard TD pass from Davis. Comstock’s kick made it 7-0.
“It was a good start,” Nees said. “We had a lot of success on offense tonight.”
Trotwood would get on the board on a 33-yard TD pass from Markell Stephens-Peppers to William McDaniels and Stephens-Peppers threw to Dallas Daniels for the PAT and an 8-7 lead.
A Piqua fumbled gave Trotwood the ball at the 32 and Hargrove ran six yards for a score to make it 14-7.
Piqua answered with another long drive.
On third and goal from the four, a determined Devon Brown took three Trotwood defenders into the end zone with him and Comstock’s kick tied it at 14.
“Devon (Brown) wasn’t going to be stopped short of the end zone,” Nees said. “But, we have a lot of people step up and make big plays tonight.”
That came with two minutes remaining in the first half, but Trotwood took less than a minute to regain the lead.
Stephens-Peppers threw and 18-yard TD pass to Daniels and hooked up with Hargrove on an 18-yard PAT to make it 22-14 at the break.
Hargrove then had 14-yard TD run in the third quarter to make it 28-14, but Piqua would again answer.
“The only drive on offense I wasn’t happy with was the one to start the second half,” Nees said. “We did a good job of stopping some of their two-point plays and keeping ourselves in the game.”
A 35-yard pass to Schrubb set up a one-yard TD run by Schmiesing and Comstock’s kick made it 28-21.
On the first play after the kickoff, Hargrove ran 55 yards to put Trotwood up 34-21.
It took Piqua only two plays to strike back, with Hite catching his second TD pass, this one 45 yards, to close the gap to 34-28 after Comstock’s PAT.
“Our passing game continues to click,” Nees said. “We had a good night throwing the ball.”
Trotwood went up 42-28 on a 6-yard run by Hargrove and a PAT pass from Stephens-Peppers to Daniels.
That set up Schrubb’s big catch to close Piqua within one score, but the Indians could never get the ball back.
Hargrove ran for more than 205 yards on 27 carries, most of it in the second half.
Piqua will look to get back on track Friday, with another tough opponent as unbeaten Franklin will visit Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
“We will build on this,” Nees said. “Playing against this kind of competition is going to make you better.”
Regardless of how the ball bounces at the end.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.