By Rob Kiser
It was one of the guttiest efforts ever turned in by a Piqua football team Friday night at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
But, the favored Troy team was able to get the winning touchdown with 3:58 remaining and hold on for a 7-6 victory.
Troy finished 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the GWOC North to win its third straight title and advance to the Division II playoffs for the third straight year.
Piqua finished 6-4 overall and 3-2 in the GWOC North.
And Piqua turned in its best performance of the season despite losing its quarterback, one of its best defenders and its kicker/punter Mick Karn in the second quarter with a knee injury. It is the second straight year Piqua has lost its starting quarterback early in the Troy game due to injury.
Jerell Lewis’ touchdown run in the closing seconds of the first half had given Piqua a 6-0 lead and for a long time, it looked like that lead might hold up.
But, Troy took over at its own 28 with 6:05 remaining after a Piqua fumble.
Jaydon Culp-Bishop — who had a pretty quiet night after rushing for 399 yards last week — rushed for 12 yards on the first play. He still broke several big runs to go over 100 yards.
Brayden Siler threw to Calilou Monroe for one first down, then completed a nine-yard pass on fourth-and-four to Shane Shoop along the right sideline.
On a second-and-six from the Piqua 41, Siler found Shoop open near the Piqua 25. Shoop avoided several tacklers and went all the way in for the score and after Siler kicked the PAT, Troy led 7-6 with 3:58 remaining.
Piqua took over on the kickoff at its own 30.
Ca’ron Coleman ran for seven yards, before Matt Blankenship exploded on a 35-yard run to the Troy 28.
But, on fourth-and-seven from the 25, there was a fumble in the backfield and Troy took over with 1:52 remaining.
Bishop-Culp broke several long runs and Troy took a knee to run the clock out.
Troy’s first three possessions had started at its own 15, own two and own five before the Trojans were finally able to pick up a couple first downs.
At the same time, Piqua drove into Troy territory on its first three possessions but was unable to get any points.
On its fourth possession, Piqua got the ball on its own 31 with 6:04 remaining in the half.
The Indians were able to put together a 14-play drive to take the lead.
After three runs by Coleman for a first down, Piqua found itself in a second-and-17.
But, after a seven-yard run by Blankenship, Troy picked up a personal foul to give the Indians a first down.
Blankenship had a 22-yard run down to the Troy seven-yard line and four plays later, Piqua faced fourth-and-goal from the one.
Lewis bulled his way into the end zone with 12 seconds to go in the half to make it 6-0.
Without its kicker (Karn, who was injured), Piqua had to go for two points.
Blane Ouhl hit Lewis near the goal line with a pass, but he was driven back before he could cross the plane.
On the final play of the half, Culp-Bishop nearly went 66 yards for a touchdown, but was tackled at the Piqua 10.
Piqua received a dead-ball taunting penalty, which was enforced on the second half kickoff.
Troy fumbled on the first play of the second half, with Blankenship recovering — but Piqua could not score.
It was the first of three times Piqua drove inside the Troy 40 in the second half, but the Indians could not score again.
Grant Toopes had a big sack of Siler to end one Troy drive and Zane Beougher broke up a fourth-down pass on another. But, Troy would put together the one scoring drive it needed and escape with the win.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.