By Rob Kiser
A lot has changed in the last 25 years.
VCRs have since gone the way of eight-track players and TVs where you get up to change the channel.
Cell phones were certainly a rarity and HD TV hadn’t even been thought of.
But, the one constant is on the Piqua football sidelines — where the Indians have had the good fortune to have Bill Nees for the last 25 years.
Which is why the legendary football coach is being honored at Friday’s game with Xenia on Bill Nees night.
And while along the way, the husband of Velvet and father of Travis, Alex and Emma has accomplished too many milestones to mention them all.
“I think to have someone coach in one place for 25 seasons is this day and age is almost unheard of,”Piqua athletic director Chip Hare said. “Bill has touched the lives of so many players, coaches and teachers during his time here. It goes far beyond his success on the football field. We have been blessed to have him for 25 years and we hope to have him for a number more.”
There are some interesting parallel’s to 1992 that shouldn’t be overlooked when looking at Nees’ career, whose record stands at 184-95 entering Friday’s game.
There is the movie from 1992, A Few Good Men.
That would probably best describe what Nees was always looking for — and started most seasons with. But, under his tutelage, by the end of the season — the “good men” were too numerous to count. Not just on the football field, but in the way they conducted themselves for the rest of their lives.
His son Alex probably summed it up best on the night Nees became the winningest coach in Piqua history, eclipsing George Wertz, who the current soccer stadium and former football field is named after.
In that game, Alex was part of a defense that recorded a shutout to help him set the record. And while coaching his sons was always special — or having Alex on the sidelines as a young boy doing a perfect imitation of his dad — the fact of the matter is Nees loves all his players.
“This is really special to be part of this,” Alex said after that game. “It (what makes him such a great coach) is that he cares. He has 65 sons on the team. This is really special for all of us. They are like his kids to him. We really are a family and this was a special night.”
Just what he has accomplished with those boys who became men under him is an almost endless list.
He closed out the Wertz Stadium era, was the only coach in the Alexander Stadium/Purk Field grass era and opened the Alexander Stadium/Purk Field turf era.
He has had seven different seasons where he won at least 10 games and has had just four losing seasons since taking over in 1992.
Maybe even more impressive — Nees and Piqua have always been at their best against the best.
In the 2000 season — after moving into second place on the list — he became the first Piqua coach to reach the state championship game.
In 2006, the Indians reached the pinnacle, winning the 2006 D-II state championship.
His 17-8 record in the postseason may be the most impressive stat of all.
Which is where the 1992 Vanessa Williams song — Save The Best For Last comes in — it is something Nees teams have always done.
He has coached three players that went on to the NFL in Matt Finkes, Quinn Pitcock and Brandon Saine.
Eric Barge probably knows Nees as well as anyone — playing for him and then coaching along side him for numerous years.
Barge understands why Nees teams always “Save Their Best” for when it matters most and had this to say after that historic win over Urbana.
“If there is one thing I can take from coach Nees, it is his work ethic,” Barge said. “The amount of time he puts into it. Everything he does. As a player, you are prepared. It is just like a college program with the time he put in.”
Which brings up another movie from 1992, A League of Their Own.
And if there was ever a team those words applied to at Piqua, it was the 2006 D-II state championship team.
Sure, the Indians started and ended the season with losses — to two very good D-I teams in Grove City and Northmont.
But, once the playoffs hit, there was no stopping the Indians.
After romping over defending state champion Toledo Central Catholic, Wapakoneta and the AP poll champion Ashland by a combined score of 100-35, they faced Cincinnati Turpin in the state semifinal at Welcome Stadium in the only game that wasn’t decided by the fourth quarter in that playoff run.
Holding a 15-9 lead, midway through the fourth quarter, Piqua faced a fourth-and-one near midfield and Nees didn’t hesitate to have quarterback Justin Hemm sneak for the first down.
Mr. Football Brandon Saine ran for a touchdown on the next play and as they say — the rest is history.
Then in state championship game, Piqua broke the game open in the first half with a fake punt where Saine went untouched to end zone after taking the snap as an upback.
None of which is a surprise to his players.
“That is what makes coach Nees, coach Nees,” Hemm, who later joined Nees on the PHS staff, said. ““I remember before the Pickerington Central game he went over all their punt blocking schemes. We called a fake punt and sure enough, Brandon (Saine) took it for a touchdown.”
And when they beat Urbana in 2014 to give him the all-time Piqua record there was an even bigger gamble.
Nees rolled the dice and faked a punt from his own 15 — with just more than 10 minutes remaining and Piqua leading 28-23.
The resulting 85-yard run by Trent Yeomans gave Piqua a 35-23 lead and sent them on the way to the record win.
Nees played it off in his own humble way — as he always does.
“It just felt like we needed to keep the ball there,” Nees said. “It just felt like the right decision at the time. And with Trent (Yeomans) running the ball and the blockers we had in front of him, it really wasn’t that big of a gamble.”
Piqua fans throughout the years if they listen close enough, have heard Nees yell out exactly what the other team was going to do before the ball was snapped — play after play.
“To this day, we still talk and laugh about how he knew exactly what the (opposing) offense was going to do (before the ball was snapped),” Hemm said. “It was amazing.”
As always, Nees gave the credit to his players.
And for those who have followed his coaching career — it really wasn’t a surprise.
And Hemm said from a players perspective, what makes Nees special is simple.
““He always made you believe you were going to win,” Hemm said. “He instilled confidence in us. There was never a game or an opponent where we didn’t think we were going to win. That’s what makes coach Nees, coach Nees.”
Just another reason he is in a “League of his Own” and being honored tonight.
“It is a tremendous honor,” Nees said. “It isn’t just me though. I have had some great players and assistants through the years. The administration has been very supportive. I always said Piqua is a great place to coach. I am very lucky.”
Piqua, players, fans, teachers and administration would tell you, they are the fortunate ones.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.
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