By Rob Kiser
Yes, the Piqua football team had some costly mistakes in a loss to Northmont last Friday.
But, a lot of those were hustling mistakes trying to make a play.
And the Indians can’t wait to rectify that Friday night at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field when Piqua hopes to snap a two-game losing streak against Fairborn in GWOC crossover action.
“I think the kids can’t wait to get back on the field,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “I think the last two weeks we have run into two very explosive teams in their own ways. I think we have gotten into situations where we were a little uncomfortable.”
Piqua, 2-2, will face an offense capable of making big plays Friday night, despite the Skyhawks 1-3 record.
Sophomore quarterback Wesley Watts (6-2, 175) has completed 36 of 77 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns, with five interceptions, while senior Brent Grody has completed 16 of 30 passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns.
“They started out the season with one guy,” Nees said. “Last week, they were alternating the two guys and both were very efficient throwing the ball.”
Sophomore KJ Redmon (5-9, 170) leads the rushing attack with 254 yards on 36 carries.
“The thing about that is he is averaging seven yards per carry, so he is pretty explosive.”
Three different players have 12 catches.
Junior Gracen Barnhart (5-8, 155) leads the group with 300 yards and three TDs, while junior Brandon Easterling (5-10, 170) has 198 yards and a TD and senior Aron Childers (5-10, 175) has 67 yards and a TD.
Barnhart has also returned a kickoff for a score.
“He (Gracen Barnhart) burnt us once last year, so we have to be aware of him,” Nees said. “But, they also have two possession receivers that both have 12 catches.”
On defense, senior linebacker Ben Walburn (6-3, 220) has 56 tackles and two forced fumbles, while Easterling has 51 tackles.
Sophomore linebacker Damien Mentzer (5-10, 190) has recorded both the team’s sacks, junior defensive back while Christian Roundtree (5-11, 195) has two interceptions.
“The play a 4-3 — a lot of the same guys go both ways on the lines,” Nees said. “They don’t do a lot of blitzing. They get pressure with front four and are solid in coverage.”
Piqua senior quarterback Rupert Delacruz (5-10, 176) has completed 28 of 48 passes for 619 yards, with two TDs and two interceptions.
Junior running back Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-1, 213) has rushed for 521 yards on 72 carries to lead the ground attack, while senior Elijah Hudson (6-1, 186) has 179 yards on 39 carries.
Senior receiver Noah Lyman (6-4, 188) leads the receivers with 12 receptions for 347 yards and one TD.
The Indians were hurt by penalties and two fumbles in Northmont territory last week.
“Rupert (Delacruz) has done a great job of making good decisions,” Nees said. “We just need to get the rest of them to follow that. We really have to work on our execution on fourth downs and down around the goal line. We have had three fourth-and-ones in the last two weeks where we didn’t make it.
“We have had four drives inside the other team’s 15 in the last two weeks where we came away without points. We need to figure out if that is us or them (the opponent). And we can’t have fumbles. It is week five now. There is no excuse for that.”
Senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes (6-1, 211) leads the defense with 23 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Ben Schmiesing (6-0, 199) has 22 tackles.
Sophomore defensive lineman Derek Hite (6-2, 248) has three sacks and two forced fumbles, while junior defensive lineman Nathan Monnin (6-5, 249) has two sacks.
Junior defensive back Dylan Cole (5-11, 190) has two interceptions and junior defensive lineman Josh Potter (6-1, 230) blocked a punt last week.
And the good news for Nees is the defense has been much improved this year.
“I think the last two games — Lima Senior and Northmont — we would not have got the ball back for the offense a year ago,” Nees said. “We have a lot of speed out there and we are getting off the field. Now, we just have to find a way to execute on offense (when they get the opportunity).”
And Nees hopes that will start Friday.
“Hopefully, we can come out, play a great game and get back on track,” Nees said.
And put two tough weeks behind them.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.