By Rob Kiser
It is a big game under any circumstances.
This week, it just got a little bigger.
Piqua (6-3 overall, 3-1 GWOC North) travels to Troy Friday night to take on a Trojan team that is 7-2 overall, 4-0 in the GWOC North and winner of six straight.
Troy could lock up a playoff berth and second straight GWOC North title with a win, although the Trojans could possibly make the playoffs even with a loss. A win would five Piqua a chance to make the postseason and a share of the GWOC North title for the first time since 2006.
“It is good that this is a big game,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “It would be anyway (because it is Piqua-Troy), but all the other stuff just adds to it.”
And when Nees looks at both his team and Troy, there is a common theme.
“Both of these teams have improve quite a bit,” Nees said. If you look back, both teams were 1-2 at one time.”
The Trojans have plenty of weapons on offense.
They have a game-breaker in the backfield in the speedy Jaydon Culp-Bishop (5-10, 172 junior) and a short-yardage specialist in junior Sam Jackson (6-0, 211).
Culp-Bishop had a 99-yard TD run against Sidney and has 1,295 yards on 201 carries, to go with 10 touchdowns. Jackson has 239 yards on 49 carries and 13 touchdowns.
But, Nees says the key to both is the H-Back, junior Spencer Klopfenstein (6-4 ,211).
“The H-Back really does a great job of setting the edge and they have a mobile offensive line,” Nees said.
Quarterback Sam Coleman and the passing game have made great strides throughout the season.
Coleman, a 6-3, 172-pound senior, has completed 73 of 146 passes with six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Senior Matt McGillivary (5-8, 145) has 28 catches for 362 yards, while Klopfenstein has 17 catches for 191 yards.
“He had a 38 quarterback rating in the first game of the year,” Nees said. “Last week, it was 237.5 (against Greenville). I would say that is quite a bit of improvement.”
The strength of the Trojans is their 50 defense.
Troy is ranked first in rushing defense in the GWOC and third in overall defense.
Junior linebacker Blake Burton (6-0, 182) leads the defense with 64 tackles.
Senior defensive lineman Josh Schricker (6-1 ,205) has 57 and senior linebacker John Wehrkamp (6-0, 203) has 53, with two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
The pass defense is no slouch either.
Troy has picked off 11 passes.
Senior Zach Boyer (6-2, 183) shares the GWOC lead with five interceptions.
Senior Derek McDonagh (5-7, 158) has three and Jackson has two.
“They play a “50”, but they use a lot of angles,” Nees said. “They have a strong defense, which we feel goes against one our strengths, which is the offensive line.”
Piqua’s offense is coming off a big night against Tippecanoe, punting just once the entire game.
Senior quarterback Austin Davis (5-11, 200) and senior receiver Hayden Schrubb (6-3, 182) continue to rewrite the Piqua passing and receiving record book.
Schrubb broke the single-season and career yardage records against Tippecanoe and now has 51 catches for 892 yards and 15 TDs to lead the GWOC in receiving yardage.
Davis continued his amazing season and now has completed 116 of 179 passes for 1,757 yards and a quarterback rating of 190.
Even more impressive, he has 25 touchdowns to just three interceptions and sealed the win over Tipp with a 45-yard TD run.
Senior Cale Meckstroth (6-1, 187) has added 28 receptions for 434 yards, while Piqua also has a potent running game.
Senior Ben Schmiesing (6-2, 197) has 106 carries for 670 yards and 11 touchdowns, while going over 100 yards the last two weeks.
Senior Devon Brown (5-11, 186) has 80 carries for 370 yards and five touchdowns.
“He (Austin Davis) has had an incredible year,” Nees said. “We have a lot of guys who can make plays.”
And while Troy’s strength is stopping the run, Nees knows you can’t just come out and throw the ball on every play.
“We will try to have our usual mix,” Nees said. “We don’t decided before the game, what we are going to do (the whole game). Sometimes, you don’t know until the end of the game what you have to do to win the game.”
Like Troy, Piqua’s defense has been solid all season.
The Indians are ranked fifth overall on defense, second against the pass and seventh against the run.
Linebacker Schmiesing and junior Micah Karn (5-11, 172) lead the way with 85 and 77 tackles respectively.
Senior linebacker James Congdon (5-9, 165) has 55 and junior defensive lineman Brennan Toopes (6-0, 209) has 52.
Karn has forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, while sophomore Makeegan Kuhn (6-1, 203) also has two interceptions.
“Every week, you are looking at something on different (with the opposing offense),” Nees said. “The one thing I will say is we are tackling much better than we were early in the season.”
Another key could be special teams.
“They had kickoff return for a score against Sidney and they blocked a punt against Vandalia,” Nees said. “So, there is plenty there to work on.”
Just like with any Piqua-Troy game — only this time the stakes are even a little higher.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.