By Rob Kiser
The Piqua football players returning from last season haven’t forgotten last year’s game with Vandalia-Butler.
The Indians were leading going to the fourth quarter before become their own worst enemy.
“The biggest thing is we had four turnovers,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “The players have brought that up a lot — even last winter. About how we weren’t going to do things like that any more.”
Still, Nees knows evening the score from last year is going to take a strong effort Friday night.
The Aviators offense will operate out of the “Pistol” like they have for years.
Senior quarterback Chandler Craine (6-0, 190) returns and has completed 70 of 131 passes for 868 yards, with nine TDs and six interceptions.
“The quarterback returns and has thrown for almost 900 yards,” Nees said. “He has a good completion percentage.”
Senior Nic Martin (6-2, 230) leads the rushing attack with 387 yards on 60 carries, while sophomore Logan Fiatt (5-11, 175) has 295 yards on 50 attempts. Both backs have rushed for six touchdowns.
Four Butler receivers have at least eight receptions.
Senior Noah Ballard (6-0, 175) lead the way with 11 receptions for 177 yards, while freshman Aaron Fields (6-2, 160) has nine receptions for 169 yards.
Sophomore Treylann Sanders (6-1, 180) has eight receptions for 107 yards and senior Torin Fletcher (5-11, 165) has eight catches for 41 yards.
“They have a tandem at running back and they have both been pretty successful,” Nees said. “They spread the ball around on offense. They have a good mix of pass and run.”
Defensively, the Aviators will operate out of a 50 look.
Leading the way are inside linebacker Martin and senior defensive tackle Vinnie Fiori (5-9, 220).
Martin, junior defensive end Gavin Kohler (6-2, 215) and junior linebacker Matt Grossman (6-0, 215) lead the defense with 28 tackles. Kohler also has 1.5 sacks, while Martin has forced and recovered two fumbles.
Senior defensive back Zach Jackson (5-9, 175) has two interceptions, while Ballard has returned his only pick for a touchdown and Fletcher also has an interception.
“I think one of the strengths of their team is they all five interior guys on their defense returning,” Nees said. “Two of those guys were first team. Both the inside linebacker (Nic Martin) and the nose (Vinnie Fiori).”
Piqua is coming off a 37-17 win over Fairborn to snap a two-game losing streak.
At the same time, Butler has lost to Xenia and Springfield after starting 3-0.
“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t have any turnovers and we only had five penalties,” Nees said. “Vandalia-Butler beat a really good Wilmington team. Last week, they ran into big Division I school.”
Piqua senior quarterback Rupert Delacruz (5-10, 176) has completed 35 of 63 passes for 709 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Senior Noah Lyman (6-4, 188) has been a big-play receiver with 14 catches for 384 yards, while junior tight end Nathan Monnin (6-5, 249) has six catches for 54 yards and junior slot receiver Hunter Hawk (5-9, 165) has five catches for 101 yards.
Junior Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-1, 213) has rushed for 691 yards and 11 TDs on 87 carries, while senior Elijah Hudson (6-1, 186) has 203 yards on 51 carries and junior Allen Schrubb (6-0, 223) has rushed for 154 yards on 27 carries.
Defensively, senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes (6-1, 211) has 31 tackles to lead the team, while sophomore linebacker Ben Schmiesing (6-0, 199) has 30.
Sophomore defensive lineman Derek Hite (6-2, 246) has 4.5 sacks, while Monnin is next with 2.5.
Junior Tyrese Basil (6-0, 253) has two forced fumbles, while junior defensive back Dylan Cole (5-11, 190) has two interceptions.
And while Clemons ran for three TDs last week and Schrubb one, special teams was as big as anything.
Lyman converted a 27-yard field goal, while Hite blocked a punt that Monnin recovered for a touchdown to give Piqua a 24-3 lead in the first half.
“There aren’t that many games you see us kick a field goal and block a punt,” Nees said. “Noah (Lyman) has gotten better (with his place-kicking), but our coverage teams have gotten better too. We had two straight games where we averaged the other team staring inside its 20 off kickoffs.”
Now, the Indians look to do it against Vandalia-Butler, Piqua’s fourth home game in the last five weeks.
“We had a great crowd last week and I am sure they will be fired up with it being homecoming,” Nees said. “That revenge thing only goes so far. At some point, you have to go out and play football.”
Which Piqua plans to do Friday night — and motivation from last year certainly doesn’t hurt anything.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.