Piqua used its two-headed running game, a developing passing game, and several Butler mistakes to extend its winning streak to five, and stop the Aviators for the first time in five years.
Vandalia—There was much to be gained for the winner of Friday night’s Piqua-Butler contest at Memorial Field at Good Samaritan Sports Complex, which may be the longest name of a high school venue in America. Maybe.
Piqua entered the game with a 5-2 record, 2-0 in the American North Division of the GWOC. The Indians had won four straight, but were only 11th in Region 12 of Division three. A win over the 4-3 Aviators, currently 8th in Region 8 of Division two, would be a big points bump for the Indians, and give them a real push into final home games against 6-2 Tippecanoe and 7-1 Troy.
The Aviators have had an injury-marred campaign, but were still in the playoff picture. Plus, it was senior night, the final home game of the season for Butler, and there was the little matter of a four-game winning streak against Piqua.
It was Piqua that stayed on track for a Division title and postseason berth, as the Indians capitalized on Butler mistakes and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 36-26 win. Following the victory, the Indians are the top scoring team in the North, and are fifth in the entire 20 team GWOC.
“That’s a really good win for our football team,” said veteran Piqua coach Bill Nees. “These guys always play us tough. They are usually close games. Last year’s game was decided by a kickoff return. We are fortunate to get out of here with a win, and we’ll go back to Piqua and start getting ready for next week.”
“Our kids played hard,” said Butler coach Nathan Hyatt after his team lost for the second straight week. “We have some injuries that are really starting to pile up, and Piqua is a good football team. Very physical. We made some mistakes tonight, and they cost us.”
Piqua got the offense rolling early, marching 58 yards in 7 plays on their opening possession. Junior quarterback Austin Davis scored on a 1-yard sneak to give Piqua a 7-0 lead.
Butler scored on a four yard run by Jabari Wortham but missed the extra point, then took the lead on Logan Flatt’s 37-yard jaunt. Flatt entered the game as Butler’s leading rusher, averaging 110 yards a game, but got just 66 on 19 carries against the Indians hard-hitting defense.
Piqua regained the lead for good four minutes into the second quarter. Ben Schmiesing capped a 9 play, 68-yard drive with a one yard run, and the Tribe took a 14-12 lead into the locker-room.
“This team, we are bonding together after those two losses (to Trotwood and Franklin),” Schmiesing said after finishing with 81 yards on 17 carries and his 11th touchdown of the season. “Coach Nees is putting in the plan and these guys are buying into it. We are definitely rolling right now.”
Butler made the first of two critical mistakes in the kicking game early in the third quarter. Punter Jake Demoss, standing inside his five, went to one knee to field a low snap. Piqua took over at the one, and Allen Schrubb scored on the first play. On the conversion attempt, holder Hunter Hawk took off with a bobbled snap and just beat a Butler defender into the corner of the end zone. Suddenly, Piqua had a little breathing room at 22-12.
“We got some breaks tonight,” Nees conceded. “They had a couple of turnovers, made a couple of mistakes. We took advantage of some of them, and didn’t take advantage of others.”
Butler has athletes, especially at wide receiver, and the Indians breathing room didn’t last long. On fourth and four at the Piqua 44, sophmore quarterback Mason Motter, who made big throws all night, found sophomore BJ Johnson open in the middle of the field. The speedster out-raced the Indians secondary into the end zone, and it was a game again at 22-19.
“Mason is getting better every week,” Hyatt praised. “When you think he gets thrown in there on the 56th play of the season, he’s been through a lot. I think he is going to be a great player for us. He already does a lot of good things, but he makes mistakes because he is young. But he is learning every day.”
The second Butler mistake in the kicking game occurred early in the fourth quarter, when a punt returner failed to catch a Micah Karn kick. It died at the five, and when the Indians defense held, Piqua took over at the Butler 25 after a short kick.
From there, Piqua took five minutes and 6 seconds off the clock, using nine plays, to cover those 25 yards! Schrubb scored from the 1, then scored from 21 yards out to seal the deal with two minutes left. The senior finished with 109 yards on 19 carries, 87 of those yards coming in the second half. He now has 17 touchdowns, all on the ground, this season.
“Our offensive line picked things up in the third and fourth quarters,” Nees said. “I think we were able to wear them down a little bit and get some good yardage in the second half.
“We did a good job of managing the clock on that drive to go up. 10. I think Davis is really good at doing stuff like that, plus we had the 25 second clock right in front of us so were able to use that to our advantage.
Schmiesing and Schrubb have jelled as a backfield tandem after the season ending injury to Darien Tipps-Clemmons. The junior said they have each others’ backs.
“Our motto is run hard, block hard. We are always there for each other, telling each other I got your back if you have mine. Things are really starting to click for us.”
Schmiesing said things have changed for the Indians since those early losses.
“After the Trotwood game, our attitude changed. Before that we were all about making the playoffs. After that loss, we decided to take things one game at a time. Just focus on the next game. Everyone bought in, and now we are really playing well.”
Nees talked about what he sees as the biggest improvement in his football team.
“We have found what works best for our players. We spent a year imprinting this offense to our personnel. Then, when we lost Darien, we had to find a new imprint. The biggest difference is, we found our fit. We are finding things that our guys can do well. We don’t ask them to do things they can’t do. We have found what they do well, and now are just letting them play.
“The passing game has really opened things up for us. In past years, teams would put 17 in the box and throw in a manager and a ball boy on us. I’m not saying we are unstoppable, but we do have a little more flexability in what we are doing.”
Hyatt said the goal for his team is simple.
“We have to get better. Hopefully get a little healthier. We go to Sidney next week and we have to go up there and get to 5-4. That’s the goal.
Piqua, meanwhile, will have mega-showdowns with Tippecanoe and Troy, both at Alexander Stadium, to end the season. Nees said it’s a great time to be an Indian.
“The excitement is building,” he said with a grin as he began the long walk back to the locker-room. “It’s just another great week. In high school football, when you win, you get 7 days of happiness. That’s what it amounts to.”