By Rob Kiser
On a night when the late John Apple — who was a former Piqua football player and coach, who died last month — was honored before Piqua’s 63-7 victory over Urbana Friday night, Piqua senior defensive back Alex Nees identified with the significance of the night as much as anyone.
“That was a tough day (when Apple died),” Nees said. “He was really close with our family. He always said Travis (Nees, who now plays for the University of Dayton) and I were like his sons and he always treated us great. He was a special guy.”
And not without a sense of humor.
“He scared me a couple times,” Nees said with a laugh. “He would tell me I was going to end up looking just like him.”
It was fitting on the first team defense’s final play early in the third quarter, Nees would break through for a sack on a blitz.
“It felt great,” Nees said with a big smile. “Our defense has improved so much. We have been working really hard. Coach (Troy) Ouhl has realy pushed us and we have gotten a lot better.”
Showing Some Love: The Piqua offense has amassed over 300 yards in two games and scored 97 points.
Darien Tipps-Clemons has rushed for 300 yards and Noah Lyman has 258 yards receiving.
Quarterback Rupert Delacruz has completed over 70 percent of his passes.
All of which means one thing: center Kyle Jones, guards Anthony Grunkemeyer and Ben Bynum and tackles Noah Magill and Cameron Hill have been just as good as advertised.
“I have to show those guys some love,” Tipps-Clemons said. “The whole they opened on my first touchdown run tonight was unbelievable.”
Opportunity Not Wasted: Piqua football coach Bill Nees rarely misses an opportunity. So what did he do during the two-hour plays lightning delay?
Show the team highlights of the 2006 state championship team.
“We watched films of the team from back then,” defensive end/tight end Nate Monnin said. “It was amazing to see how fast that defensive line got off the ball. I think it really pumped us up.”
He would get no argument from Nees.
“It was great, because since we were at home, we could show those guys films from back then,” Nees said. “This was one of the best games our defensive line has played as a whole in a long time.”
Let The Lions Out: There was no holding Piqua defensive tackle Tristen Cox back when it was time to take the field.
And it was all the Indians could do to keep the 6-4, 333-pound defensive tackle in the locker room until then.
“We were so pumped up,” Cox said. “It was like letting a bunch of lions out of a cage.”
Special Teams Truly Special: Piqua won every phase of the game Friday, including special teams. The Indians pinned Urbana inside the 20 on the majority of their kickoffs and Andrew Lee returned a free kick after a safety for a touchdown, with Elijah Hudson returning a kickoff 86 yards to start the second half. The Indians also returned another punt for a TD, but were called for holding.
“Special teams has become one of our strengths,” Nees said.
Test Time: Alex Nees and the Indians defense know their is no time to rest on their laurels. A Lima Senior team that scored nine touchdowns on Piqua last year is coming to town with a 2-0 record.
“It is a big test,” Alex Nees said. “They have some good receivers that have length and speed. But, if we just stick to the game plan and do the things we have been taught, we will be ready.”
Decal Worthy: Each week, a player will receive a John Apple decal for the biggest hit of the game.
Monnin, the first week’s winner and Cox both had some crushing hits Friday.
And Tipps-Clemons nearly drove Urbana quarterback Levi Boettcher into the Piqua band when he tackled him for a safety in the first half.
Leaving the coaching staff with some tough choices — fitting on a night when the big man known for his A-Bomb move in the wrestling ring has to be looking down with a big smile.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.