By Rob Kiser
It is no secret what is at stake when the Piqua football team travels to Trotwood-Madison Friday night and the challenge in front of the Indians.
Trotwood-Madison, 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the GWOC North, will not be in good spirits after suffering its first loss in the GWOC North since 2007 to Troy last week.
For Piqua, 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the GWOC North, it is a must win situation on the road if the Indians want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Trotwood-Madison is ranked first in D-III, Region 10, while Piqua is 11th in a hotly contested battle for one of the eight playoff spots.
“You never know how a team is going to react to that (getting beat),” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “It could be (a difficult situation), but we feel like we are in a really good place right now”
The Rams feature two of the top four rushers in the GWOC.
Sophomore Ravelon Hargrove (5-7, 165) , who didn’t play in the loss to Troy, leads the GWOC with 1,161 yards and 14 TDs on 108 carries, while senior Rondric Bogan (5-9, 177) is fourth in the GWOC with 691 yards and eight TDs on 92 carries.
“They have two guys that have rushed for almost 1,000 yards,” Nees said. “But, they also have the ability to throw the ball. Their offensive line has some strong guys and they have a big tight end, so they can get after you.”
Sophomore Quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers (5-9, 150) has completed 60 of 115 passes for 788 yards and 11 touchdowns, with five interceptions.
Sophomore receiver Caleb Johnson (6-1, 150) is his favorite target with 27 catches for 304 yards, while senior Roland Walder (6-3, 230) has 10 receptions for 188 yards.
Hargrove is also dangerous in the passing game, with seven receptions for 118 yards.
The Rams operate for the most part out of an I-formation.
“I think the big key for us is not letting the ball get outside the box and into our secondary,” Nees said. “When you watch the films, you see see a lot of long runs down the sidelines and the backs cutting back. Trotwood lives on the explosive play and that is what we can’t let happen.”
Defensively, the Rams operate out of a 4-3 base defense.
Defensive back Kobe Vinegar (5-10, 170) leads the defense with 51 tackles, while Walder has five sacks.
Junior Darius Wortham (6-0, 170) and senior Ta’Ron Bentley (5-9, 155) have both intercepted two passes.
“They play multiple defenses,” Nees said. “They are quick to the ball and real solid tackling. The don’t blitz a lot, but they can get a lot of pressure on.”
The Rams are also dangerous on special teams, with Vinegar and Walder both returning kickoffs for touchdowns.
The Piqua offense will counter with junior Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-1, 213), the second leading rusher in the GWOC. Clemons has 1,046 yards and 16 touchdowns on 136 carries.
Senior Elijah Hudson (6-1, 186) and junior Allen Schrubb (6-0, 223) have both rushed for five TDs.
Hudson has 254 yards on 57 carries, while Schrubb has 235 yards on 41 carries.
All three found the end zone last week in the win over Greenville.
“That was our plan going in,” Nees said. “We wanted to have good balance and set up our play-action passing.”
Senior quarterback Rupert Delacruz (5-10, 176) has completed 58 of 103 passes for 946 yards and four TDs, with two interceptions.
Senior Noah Lyman (6-4, 188) leads the receivers with 527 yards on 24 receptions. Junior slot Hunter Hawk (5-9, 165) has seven receptions for 108 yards, while junior tight end Nathan Monnin (6-5, 249) has nine catches for 89 yards.
Senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes (6-1, 211) leads the team with 40 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Ben Schmiesing (6-0, 199) has 38.
Sophomore defensive lineman Derek Hite (6-2, 248) is fifth in the GWOC with 4.5 sacks and has forced three fumbles, while Monnin is next with 2.5 sacks and has recovered two fumbles.
Junior Dylan Cole (5-11, 190) is tied for fourth in the GWOC with three interceptions, while Schmiesing and senior Alex Nees (5-10, 176) both have two.
“I thought our defense did a great job (of controlling the line of scrimmage) last week,” Nees said. “They are going to need to continue to do that. Like I said, I feel like we are in a really good place as a team right now.”
Heading into the biggest game of the season.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor of the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.