PIQUA — A lot has changed since Bill Nees became the head football coach at Piqua in 1992 — both on and off the field.
VCRs have since gone the way of eight-track players and TVs where you get up to change the channel.
Cell phones were certainly a rarity and HDTV hadn’t even been thought of.
But the one constant is on the Piqua football sidelines — where the Indians have had the good fortune to have Nees for the last 26 years.
Which is why the legendary football coach will be part of the 50th class of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inducted next June.
“The whole thing is pretty cool,” Nees said. “Because this is one of the biggest honors you can have.”
And along the way, the husband of Velvet and father of Travis, Alex and Emma has accomplished too many milestones to mention them all.
Nees has a record of 189-96.
He has a 17-9 record in the postseason, winning a state championship in 2006 and finishing as state runner-up in 2000 — both in Division II.
Nees has coached three players — Matt Finkes, Quinn Pitcock and Brandon Saine — who have gone on to play in the NFL
And while those may be the seasons fans remember, Nees said every season is special.
“We have had some great teams and players,” Nees said. “But, there are also some teams that when you looked back at the end of the season, due to injuries or other things, you can look back and say that team really overachieved. Every team and season is unique, but there are all a lot of fun.”
And Nees is very humble about his latest honor.
“That is just kind of given with this kind of honor,” Nees said. “You have to have great assistants and great players. And we have had that at Piqua. I have gotten a lot of texts from players congratulating me. And when I respond, I say thanks for getting me there.”
Nees starred at Lima Central Catholic, before moving on to play under Lee Tressel at Baldwin Wallace.
He started out at Piqua as defensive coordinator — and when Steve Magoteaux resigned to become athletic director in 1992, Nees became the head coach.
“When I started, we were watching films on VHS, now we have a plasma TV on the sidelines for our players to look at the previous series when they come off the field,” Nees said.
And he never gave a thought to spending the next 26 years as Piqua coach.
“I really didn’t know,” Nees said. “Coaching has always been a year to year thing for me and I think it should be. When I first started it was pretty common for coaches to be at one place for a long time.”
And Piqua athletic director Chip Hare is thankful that was the case with Nees.
“I think to have someone coach in one place for 26 seasons is this day and age is almost unheard of,”Piqua athletic director Chip Hare said. “Bill has touched the lives of so many players, coaches and teachers during his time here. It goes far beyond his success on the football field. We have been blessed to have him for 26 years and we hope to have him for a number more.”
Nees said the goal hasn’t changed from his first year as a head coach.
“Our goal every year is to be in the final game playing for a state championship,” Nees said. “When it isn’t, that is probably when I should stop coaching.”
And Nees has always had a strong staff to go with talented players.
“Back when I started coaching, there were a lot of schools where coaches were there for a long time and had that continuity,” Nees said. “That is what I have always strived for at Piqua and we have had that. There have been a few coaches that have been there for a long. There are some new ones that come in, but we have that core culture and belief established and learned from that.”
And for a coach who comes from the defensive side of the ball, Nees has had to make major adjustments as the high school football game has gone from run first, pass when you have to — to the evolution of the spread offense and it becoming the norm.
“The biggest change is probably the passing game,” Nees said. “But, if you can run the ball and play good defense, that’s still a pretty good formula for success.”
There have been many highlights for Nees as a coach. Two of the biggest were getting to coach his sons Travis and Alex.
“I had a blast coaching Travis and Alex,” Nees said. “They both had been coming to practices since they were in third or fourth grade. It was just kind of nice to see them out there on the field finally. They both had successful high school careers and were able to go on and play in college.”
Alex was part of the defense that shut out Urbana in the second half back in 2015 when Nees passed George Wertz as the all-time winningest coach at Piqua.
And while coaching his sons was always special — as was having Alex on the sidelines as a young boy doing a perfect imitation of his dad — the fact of the matter is Nees loves all his players.
“This is really special to be part of this,” Alex said after that game. “It (what makes him such a great coach) is that he cares. He has 65 sons on the team. This is really special for all of us. They are like his kids to him. We really are a family and this was a special night.”
And the 2006 state championship season was special from start to finish.
The Indians were truly in a “League of their Own” — fitting since that movie came out during Nees’ first season as coach.
Sure, the Indians started and ended the season with losses — to two very good D-I teams in Grove City and Northmont.
But, once the playoffs hit, there was no stopping Piqua.
After romping over defending state champion Toledo Central Catholic, Wapakoneta and the AP poll champion Ashland by a combined score of 100-35, they faced Cincinnati Turpin in the state semifinal at Welcome Stadium in the only game that wasn’t decided by the fourth quarter in that playoff run.
Holding a 15-9 lead, midway through the fourth quarter, Piqua faced a fourth-and-one near midfield and Nees didn’t hesitate to have quarterback Justin Hemm sneak for the first down.
Mr. Football Brandon Saine ran for a touchdown on the next play and as they say — the rest is history.
Then in state championship game, Piqua broke the game open in the first half with a fake punt where Saine went untouched to end zone after taking the snap as an upback.
None of which is a surprise to his players.
“That is what makes coach Nees, coach Nees,” Hemm, who later joined Nees on the PHS staff for a few years, said. ““I remember before the Pickerington Central game he went over all their punt blocking schemes. We called a fake punt and sure enough, Brandon (Saine) took it for a touchdown.”
Piqua fans throughout the years if they listen close enough, have heard Nees yell out exactly what the other team was going to do before the ball was snapped — play after play.
“To this day, we still talk and laugh about how he knew exactly what the (opposing) offense was going to do (before the ball was snapped),” Hemm said. “It was amazing.”
And Hemm said from a players perspective, what makes Nees special is simple.
““He always made you believe you were going to win,” Hemm said. “He instilled confidence in us. There was never a game or an opponent where we didn’t think we were going to win. That’s what makes coach Nees, coach Nees.”
And Eric Barge probably knows Nees as well as anyone. He both played for Nees and has returned to be assistant coach for a number of years.
“If there is one thing I can take from coach Nees, it is his work ethic,” Barge said. “The amount of time he puts into it. Everything he does. As a player, you are prepared. It is just like a college program with the time he put in.”
And Nees will see some familiar faces at the Hall of Fame inductions.
Mike Fell — a coach at Columbus Grove, Celina, Ada and Lima Senior, was a high school teammate of Nees and is also being inducted.
And Jerry Rutherford — who coached for 35 years at Eastwood — was a college teammate of Nees’ at Baldwin Wallace.
“It is a fairly unique situation,” Nees said. “It is kind of nice to be going in with a couple guys like that.“
As always, Nees is always looking towards the future as he prepares for another season. Piqua football camps will be held July 16-18. Camps for both grades 1-6 and grades 7-8 will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. and cost will be $50, which includes a t-shirt.
Junior high conditioning will be July 23-25 at 6 p.m., before practice begins for the 2018 season on July 30.
“We have always tried to stay one step ahead (of changes and trends),” Nees said.
Something that hasn’t changed for the last 26 years on the Piqua sidelines.
Rob Kiser is sports editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.