By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
MIAMI COUNTY — A division title up for grabs. Playoff spots on the line for both teams.
For the fourth straight season, the annual Troy-Piqua football game will carry meaning deeper than just the rivalry itself.
But in all honesty? The rivalry that has spanned three different centuries is all the “meaning” necessary.
When Piqua travels to Troy at 7 p.m. Friday night for a Week 10 showdown, it will be the 135th time since 1899 that the Trojans and Indians have battled — the most-played high school football game in Ohio football history. And even though the Trojans enter the game with a three-game winning streak over the Indians, the rivalry is still incredibly even given how many times the two teams have played, with Troy now holding a narrow 65-63-6 lead.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, either. Troy enters the night 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Miami Valley League Miami Division, having clinched at least a share of the first-ever MVL Miami title. Piqua, meanwhile, is 5-4 and 5-2 in the MVL Miami, with a chance to earn a share of that division title with a win over its archrival.
That’s not all that’s on the line, either, as both teams are in the running for spots in Week 11. Troy — which has qualified for the postseason for the past three seasons in a row, tying a program-best streak — currently sits in fifth place in the Division II, Region 7 playoff standings. And even though the Trojans have not technically clinched a playoff spot, they probably would still get in even with a loss, but Troy would likely clinch a home game with a victory over the Indians.
Piqua, meanwhile, sits in the eighth and final qualifying spot in the same region, slightly ahead of 5-4 Olentangy Berlin, and probably needs a victory over the Trojans to get in. Both teams control their own destiny according to joeeitel.com, with only four teams having clinched playoff spots and two — Toledo Central Catholic and Anthony Wayne — having clinched home games.
It’s the fourth season in a row that Piqua has needed a victory over Troy in Week 10 to get into the playoffs — the last time the Indians qualified was in 2015, which was also the last time they beat Troy. It’s also the third straight year that Piqua has had a chance to share the division title with Troy — in 2016, both teams entered the final week 4-0 in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play, with an outright title going to the winner, Troy.
It may seem fitting — necessary, even — to finish off the regular season with the Troy-Piqua game in Week 10. But that hasn’t always been the way the schedule has worked throughout the years.
The year 2012 began a now-eight-year streak of Week 10 showdowns, with Piqua leading the series 4-3 during that time after four straight wins from 2012-15, the last being a 26-7 victory in 2015 before the Trojans’ current three-game winning streak. But in the previous 134 meetings between the teams, the game has only been played in the final week of the regular season 51 times — 39 percent of the time.
The rivalry began with a final-week showdown in 1899 — and also a penultimate-week one, too. Troy won the first-ever meeting between the two teams 17-0, and then the very next week Troy scored a safety in the game’s closing seconds to eke out a 7-5 victory. In 1900, the two teams met in the final game of the season again, but that would not happen again until the 1909 matchup.
Of course, some historians exist who argue that one meeting in the early 1900s should not count, claiming that one of those games was a “city game” and was played by grown men instead of players from the schools themselves. Purists have since tried to make the case that the game, which Troy won, should be stricken from the record. Both schools themselves, however, officially recognize the game, without the need even for an asterisk.
And then, the unthinkable happened in 1910 — the two teams did not play each other at all.
The Trojans and Indians fixed that in 1911, though, once again facing off in the final week of the regular season. And since 1911, Troy and Piqua have played each other every season — at least once — solidifying its position as the longest-continuous rivalry game in the state of Ohio.
From 1918-1948, Troy and Piqua met in the final game of the season, the longest run in the history of the rivalry. Following the 1948 meeting — which ended in a 0-0 tie — the game was not played in the final week of the season again until 1958 and again in 1959, but after that the rivalry would not be the season’s climactic act again until 1988.
During that stretch, the Trojans and Indians couldn’t possibly play in the final week of the regular season, as Troy left the original Miami Valley League in 1968. Both teams were charter members of that incarnation of the MVL in 1926, but in 1968 the Trojans joined the 10-team Western Ohio League — with the MVL’s Indians as their only non-league game to open the season. So from 1968-1981, every Troy and Piqua football season began with the biggest game for both, and it was all downhill from there.
That statement may sound unfair to the following nine weeks those years and may even be a slight embellishment — but it isn’t far from the truth.
The two archrivals reunited again in 1982, with Troy leaving the WOL and Piqua the MVL to help form the Greater Miami Valley Conference. But with the GMVC playing a rotating schedules among all of its member teams, a Week 10 showdown was not possible — only in 1988 and 89 did the two teams finish the season facing off against each other. Many times during the two teams’ tenure in the league, they clashed anytime throughout the season but the highlight Week 10 spot, including one of the biggest matchups in the rivalry’s history.
In 1992, both teams came into Troy-Piqua week undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in the state in the Division I poll. An estimated and astonishing 14,000 fans packed into Troy Memorial Stadium to watch that contest … which took place in Week 5, a marquee matchup that head-shakingly ended up square in the middle of the season.
Throughout the 1990s, Troy and Piqua dominated the GMVC, combining for nine conference championships and 10 total playoff appearances. But in 2001, the Trojans and Indians joined the GWOC — which also had rotating schedules until, at long last in 2012, the game was moved to the Week 10 spot, where it has stayed since.
Now Troy and Piqua will face off one more time Friday night and give the new MVL a fitting climax to its first season, particularly with everything that the two teams are fighting for.
But really, in this rivalry, the fight itself is all anyone needs.
For even more on the state of Ohio’s most storied football rivalry, look for the book “Ohio’s Troy vs. Piqua Football Rivalry: The Battle on the Miami” — written by David Fong, former Troy Daily News and Miami Valley Today sports editor — at a local bookstore or on Amazon.com.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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