By Rob Kiser
Not in Ben Schmiesing’s house.
After Piqua quarterback Austin Davis’ fourth touchdown pass to Hayden Schrubb had given the Piqua football team a 33-27 lead over Vandalia-Butler with 2:13 to go Thursday night, senior linebacker Ben Schmiesing wasn’t about to walk off the turf at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field for the last time with anything but a win.
“We had confidence in our defense,” Schmiesing said. “We knew we could make a play.”
And Schmiesing did exactly that.
Vandalia-Butler had driven from its 36 to the Piqua 34 and had a first-and-10 with a little over a minute remaining.
Vandalia quarterback Mason Motter completed a short pass for what appeared would be an eight-yard gain.
But, as the receiver was going down, Schmiesing took the ball away from him, sealing the win for Piqua.
“To be honest, I thought he would be down before I got there,” Schmiesing said. “But, coach (Bill) Nees always tells us to run to the football. So, that’s what I did. I saw the football sticking out there and was able to grab it.”
Schmiesing just hoped the official saw it that way.
“The first thing I did was look at the official to make sure he was calling it our ball,” Schmiesing, who came running out of the pile with the ball in celebration, said. “Then, it was just so emotional. To make a play like that in my final home game. It is just an incredible feeling.”
Nobody was happier than Piqua coach Bill Nees to see Schmiesing emerge with the ball.
“What a play by Ben Schmiesing,” Nees said. “We were thinking about adjusting our defense.You never know if you have too much rush or too little rush. But, Ben (Schmiesing) made the decision easy for us.”
It was a fitting finish to game full of big plays on both sides of the ball.
Vandalia-Butler had jumped out to a 13-0 lead on 12-yard run by Logan Flatt and a 14-yard TD pass from Motter to Bryant Johnson.
But, two passes from Davis to Schrubb — who are cousins — with two PAT kicks by Schrubb, filling in for the injured Robbie Comstock, had given Piqua a 14-13 lead.
The second one was set up by a leaping interception by Jacob Bushnell to give Piqua the ball at the Vandalia-Butler 48.
“That was another big play,” Nees said. “We had a lot of guys make plays tonight.”
The first TD was a 14 yarder on third-and-seven, while the second came on a fourth-and-seven from the 30-yard line.
“We are cousins,” Davis said. “Everybody knows that. I know if I put the ball up there, he will go get it.”
A 6-yard TD run by Schmiesing had given Piqua a 20-13 lead to start the second half.
“It doesn’t matter if I am blocking like in the first half — or running the ball,” Schmiesing said. “I just want to help the team anyway I can.”
Vandalia then answered with a 31-yard TD pass from Motter to Johnson and a 2-yard TD run by Flatt to take a 27-20 lead to the fourth quarter.
With 9:47 to go, Davis hooked up with Schrubb for a 19-yard score and Schrubb’s kick tied it at 27.
Vandalia had the first chance to break the tie.
But on third and fourth downs with eight yards to go from the Piqua 26, Piqua defensive back Devon Brown, giving eight inches away to the 6-5 Johnson, batted the ball away on consecutive plays to give the Indians the ball on downs with 5:22 remaining.
“Devon (Brown) battled all night,” Nees said. “Just like (Hayden) Schrubb, he (Bryant Johnson) is 6-5 and uses his size. He is a great receiver so we gave up a couple scores — but overall, I felt like we won that battle.”
Piqua moved the ball down the field behind the running of Schmiesing and Brown.
But, after an incompletions on third-and-seven — Piqua faced a fourth-and-seven from the Vandalia 29 with the game on the line.
When Schrubb lined up outside on the play, he saw a lot of company.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure the ball was coming my way,” Schrubb said. “Because, they had four guys out there.”
So, Schrubb changed his route a little.
“I saw the safety biting to the outside, so I decided to go the middle instead,” Schrubb.
It was almost like Davis read his mind. With Schrubb at the 10 with a defender on him, Davis sailed the ball towards the end zone.
“When I saw the ball, I knew I had to go get it,” Schrubb said.
Which is exactly what he did to give Piqua a 33-27 lead.
“There was no doubt (he was going to Schrubb),” Davis said. “He came across the middle and I could see he was going to be open and I let it go.”
Which Nees said is a no-brainer.
“When you have a receiver with Hayden’s (Schrubb) size (6-4), you throw it up there and let him go get it,” Nees said.
When there was a bad exchange on the PAT, Piqua’s lead stayed at six.
While the Indians were coming off a one-point loss to Sidney in their previous home game, no negative thoughts crept in.
“I understand what you are saying,” Nees said. “But, we knew for them to score seven points, they were going to have to get in the end zone and our defense wasn’t going to allow that to happen.”
“Our defense was playing well,” he said. “We knew we were going to make a play.”
And Schmiesing did just that to finish off a big win.
Piqua now goes to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the GWOC North with road games with Tippecanoe and Troy to finish the season, while Vandalia drops to 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the GWOC North.
Schrubb finished with eight catches for 146 yards and is 15 yards away from the Piqua career receiving record. Davis completed 14 of 26 passes for 217 yards, while Schmiesing rushed for 119 yards on 20 carries yards and Brown had 11 rushes for 67 yards. Tight end Derek Hite had a 41-yard reception in the first half.
For Vandalia, Motter was for 25 0f 38 passing for 273 yards with one interception, while Flatt rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries.
Jack Mitchell had nine catches for 90 yards and Johnson had four for 64 yards, Flatt catching five passes for 53 yards.
“This was a big win,” Davis said. “We have to win these last three (starting with that one), to give ourselves a chance for the playoffs.”
And it was a fitting way for the Piqua seniors to leave the field one final time.
“Ben Schmiesing just made one heck of a play there,” Schrubb said. “What you can say.”
The linebacker wasn’t going to let his final home game end any other way.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.