By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
RIVERSIDE — Even after two tough losses to Chaminade-Julienne and Lima Senior to open the season, Piqua football coach Bill Nees had confidence in his team.
“The Chaminade-Julienne game, we hung in there for a long time,” Nees said. “The Lima Senior game was a tough loss, but really, I felt like the team had shown a lot of poise all along.”
And he didn’t have to wait long to be proven right in the Fox 45 Thursday Night Lights game at Stebbins.
The Indians fell into an early 10-0 deficit midway through the first quarter, before rallying for a 27-10 victory in matchup of 0-2 teams.
“We were only four or five minutes into the game,” Piqua defensive end Jerell Lewis said. “It was no big deal. There wasn’t any reason to panic.”
And it was Lewis finishing off a big play by Damien Lawson and Makeegan Kuhn that turned the game in Piqua’s favor.
Stebbins was facing a third-and-five from its own 25 late in the first quarter after taking a 10-0 lead when Lawson and Kuhn converged on quarterback Nate Keller on the 15-yard line.
Kuhn was able to separate Keller from the ball and Lewis hopped on it at the Stebbins 1-yard line just before it went out of bounds.
“I think Damien (Lawson) and Makeegen (Kuhn) made the hit,” Lewis said. “For sure (he was just trying to get the ball before it went out of bounds). It was a huge momentum swing.”
Kuhn bolted into the end zone on Piqua’s next play four seconds later and after Jackson Trombley’s PAT kick, the visiting Indians trailed just 10-7.
After limiting Stebbins to one first down on its next possession, an eight-yard punt gave Piqua the ball at the host Indians 35-yard line.
A 13-yard run by Ca’ron Coleman set up a 15-yard TD run by Tanner Kemp, where he was able to elude several would-be tacklers on the way to the end zone. Trombley’s kick put Piqua up 14-10 with 7:42 remaining in the half.
“Tanner (Kemp) is becoming a real threat in the backfield,” Nees said. “And let’s not forget Ca’ron (Coleman). Those guys really made some nice cuts out there.”
Later, Aidan Meyer would recover a Stebbins fumble at the Stebbins’ 33-yard line, but penalties stalled the drive and Piqua would take a 14-10 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Piqua’s domination of the line of scrimmage continued the rest of the game.
Piqua dominated the third quarter, keeping Stebbins pinned back in its own end, but wasn’t able to cash in until late in the quarter.
Piqua would go 61 yards in two plays.
After a holding penalty, Blane Ouhl connected with Coleman on a 33-yard pass to the 15-yard line.
Kemp ran it in for his second touchdown on the next play and Trombley’s kick made it 21-10.
Piqua then put together a 14-play drive early in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Ouhl hooked up with Tayvian Elder on a 13-yard pass to get out of a first-and-15 hole.
Coleman had an 8-yard run on third-and-five to convert one first down and Kemp had a six-yard run on a fourth-and-one from the Stebbins 46 to keep the drive alive.
Coleman ran it in from 17 yards out on a first-and-10 — changing directions several times and leaving the Stebbins defenders graspin for air — and after the run failed on the PAT, Piqua led 27-10 with 5:10 remaining.
“I thought our offensive and defensive lines both had great games tonight,” Nees said.
Most of the Stebbins damage came on the opening two drives of the game.
Stebbins went 90 yards in three plays on its opening drive.
After Marvelous Rutledge ran for three yards and Keller ran for four yards, Keller hooked up with Daniel Bowman on an 83-yard TD pass down the right sideline.
Gage Fosberg’s kick made it 7-0 with 10:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
After a three-and-out by Piqua, Stebbins drove from its 48-yard line to the Piqua seven.
Kessler completed a 17-yard pass to Austin Womack on the first play of the drive.
Rutledge had a 19-yard run in the series and Keller had a 12-yard run.
But, Stebbins had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Fosberg to go up 10-0 with 5:31 remaining in the first half.
“Sometimes, it takes us a few series to get clicking,” Lewis said. “But, when we do, we can shut teams down.”
Keller did finish 10 of 12 passing for 180 yards, with Bowman finishing with three receptions for 106 yards.
But, Piqua limited Stebbins to 36 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
The D-line, led by Lewis and Lance Reaves-Hicks, was in the backfield all night.
Lewis had nine tackles and four sacks, while linebackers Kuhn, Kemp and Coleman combined for 19 tackles. Dan Johnson led Stebbins with nine tackles and Andre Snow added eight.
On the offensive side of the ball, Piqua was able to pound out 206 yards rushing on 41 carries.
Coleman rushed for 102 yards on 13 carries, Kemp had 44 yards on eight carries, Ouhl picked 42 on 10 carries and Kuhn added 28 on eight carries.
“Our backs did a nice job,” Nees said. “Blane (Ouhl) did a nice job with ball and both our lines played really well.”
Ouhl also completed five of 11 passes for 65 yards.
“And I thought our special teams played well,” Nees said.
As a result, Nees walked off holding the Thursday Night Lights winner’s trophy for the third time in as many tries over the last four years and gives his squad some much needed momentum heading into next’s Friday’s rivalry game when Sidney visits in MVL action.
“We feel like we can win eight straight and get to the playoffs,” Lewis said.
For now, Nees will keep the team focused on Sidney — and keeping the “Battered Helmet” in Piqua for another year.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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