By Rob Kiser
TOLEDO — Piqua football coach Bill Nees only wanted to hear one thing Friday night — and he got his wish.
After the Indians 34-30 win over Toledo St. Johns on the road to open the season — the Piqua band surrounded the Piqua players and played the Indians fight song, a tradition David Palmer established during this time as Piqua Athletic Director.
“That is the greatest celebration there is,” Nees said. “To be able to win the opener and hear that song. The band does a great job supporting the team.”
Big Time Breakout: Senior receiver Noah Lyman put on display the hard work he has put in to get ready for this season.
Lyman made several Hall of Fame catches in hauling in six passes for 208 yards, including several game changers.
“I have worked hard,” Lyman said. “I never expected anything like this, but I work on those (diving catches) all the time. This is the greatest feeling in the world (for the team to be able to finish off a win).”
Start to Finish: Darien Tipps-Clemons went 74 yards on Piqua’s first play of the night to set the tone — then capped a 232 yard, 3 TD performance with a 71-yard TD run to seal the win after St. John’s had gotten within three points.
“We just had to find a way to get things done tonight,” Tipps-Clemons said. “We came out and we were able to do that. The score was closer this year, but we got the win.”
Five Plays You Shouldn’t Forget: There were some key moments Friday night that are easy to overlook. Here are five of them:
1.On Piqua’s second possession — with the Indians leading 7-0, Piqua faced a third-and-five from its own 26 when Lyman made a diving catch for a 29-yard reception that would keep what would be a touchdown drive going.
Lyman also had a big catch to keep Piqua from punting on its final drive and setting up Clemons game-winning run.
2.On St. John’s next possession, it looked like the Titans had a big play on third and five, but Piqua linebacker Ben Schmiesing stripped the ball away before the receiver could pull it in, forcing a punt.
3.Rupert Delacruz hit slot receiver Andrew Lee in stride for a 51-yard gain to set up the second of Elijah Hudson’s two TD runs.
4.With about 30 seconds left in the first half, St. John’s was on the Piqua 10 when Piqua defensive end Derek Hite sacked quarterback Matt Winzeler and the first-half clock ran out.
5.With Piqua still leading 27-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Winzeler ran for 26 yards on a third-and-27 from to the Piqua 44. What is so significant about that? Piqua stuffed Tyler Turner on the fourth down play and took over on downs.
“We had some plays that were game changers,” Nees said.
What Were They Thinking: After St. John’s had scored late in the first half to get within 20-7, Piqua had a first down on its own 20 with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
As the Indians broke the huddle and Lyman lined up in his normal spot along the right sideline, there was no Titan defender outside the tackle box.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Lyman said.
Piqua assistant Troy Ouhl alerted Delacruz and the result was the easiest 79-yard pass play in some time for the Indians. Lyman took the ball to the one and Clemons scored on the next play.
“I heard coach Ouhl yelling,” Delacruz said. “That was just a freebie.”
Team Defense: Hite, Dylan Cole and Jarrett Toopes all had six tackles to lead Piqua.
Schmiesing had five, while Ty Carnes, Tipps-Clemons and Lee were all credited with four.
All’s Well That Ends Well: After amassing 354 yards in the first half, the second half became a struggle for the Indians — including two turnovers.
In the end, it couldn’t have worked out any better.
“We lost some close games last year,” Lyman said. “To be able to finish off a game like that is the greatest feeling in the world.”
Just like hearing that “sweet” music afterwards.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.