By Rob Kiser
It had been a dream of Alex Nees since he was a nine-year old on the sideline when Piqua won the state championship with his father Bill coaching.
Now, a senior defensive back playing for his dad, he learned on the bus ride back from Troy Friday night that the Indians were going to the playoffs.
Piqua 26-7 win over Troy, along with some other teams losses put the Indians in the playoffs.
The Indians will play at Tippecanoe in D-III first-round action at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
“I had always dreamed of taking a team to the playoffs,” Alex Nees said. “And now I am doing that. Well, I didn’t take them to the playoffs but I am part of a team that made the playoffs. To beat Troy and go to the playoffs, that is the perfect scenario.”
He will be the first Nees to participate in the high school playoffs.
Bill Nees’ Lima Central Catholic team missed by one spot during his high school days — when they only took one team from each region and hist brother Travis just missed making the playoffs his senior season at Piqua.
“I am the first Nees brother in the playoffs,” Alex said. “They probably didn’t even have the playoffs back when my dad played (he said with a laugh).”
He may not hold that honor for long.
Alex’s brother Travis plays for the University of Dayton.
“There may be two Nees in the playoffs this year,” Bill Nees said. “If Dayton wins its next two games, they will be in the Division I-AA playoffs.”
Alex began checking scores as soon as the Troy game ended Friday — and even a little earlier.
Piqua needed Goshen, St. Marys and Wilmington to all lose and they did.
“I was telling people on the sidelines to shut up so I could hear the Trotwood-Vandalia score that they were announcing,” Alex Nees said. “Because, Trotwood had to win that game for us to get in. By, the time we left Troy, we knew Goshen and St. Marys had lost. When we got close to Piqua, we got word that Wilmington had lost (and Piqua was in the playoffs). Everybody started going crazy.
“We called the offensive bus and let them know. They got the word a little late. When we got to the Gazebo (for the postgame celebration), everybody was going crazy and they announced it to the crowd. It was great.”
Bill Nees wasn’t as anxious as his son to find out Piqua’s fate.
“I didn’t want any bad news after such a big win,” Bill Nees said. “But, I started hearing from everybody how things were going. It is amazing how quick you can learn things with all the technology today.”
Those at the game may have noticed senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes playing with casts on both hands Friday against Troy.
Let’s just say he didn’t handle the loss to Sidney the previous week real well.
“I wasn’t real happy after that game,” Toopes said. “I broke both my hands in the locker room after the game. They call me Rocky.”
But, Toopes wasn’t about to let that keep him off the field for the Troy. Piqua’s leading tackler with 57, still managed to make three tackles in the game.
“It is the passion I have for the game,” he said. “I thought Sidney cost us the playoffs. That’s why I had tears in my eye after the Troy game. I thought I had just played my final game.”
The emotional roller coaster quickly changed to tears of joy by the time he arrived back in Piqua.
“It is just a great feeling to be in the playoffs,” Toopes said. “We haven’t been there since 2007. We talked about having the team to do it this year. I thought it was over after Sidney. I really feel like we have a team that can make a run.”
There is nothing Piqua quarterback Rupert Delacruz dislikes more than cold weather.
But, he will have no trouble overlooking that to play a few more games.
“Everybody knows I hate the cold weather,” Delacruz said. “It is no secret. But, that is what playing in the playoffs means. It is great. We haven’t been there since 2007. To get a big win over Troy and go to the playoffs, you can’t ask anymore than that.”
There was a great sight on the Piqua defensive side of the ball — number 91 lined up at defensive end for the Indians.
Brady Hill, recovering from an ACL injury and a three-year starter, saw his first action of the season.
“He was able to practice for the first time this week,” Nees said. “We were trying him on the edge on punts to see how he would do. Then Tristen (Cox) sprained his ankle and we needed him on defense. It worked out perfectly.”
Which is the only way to describe the Piqua football team’s weekend.