Piqua used a diversified offense to hand Tippecanoe a disappointing loss. And before the Indians even went to the locker-room, the point was made clear. It’s Troy Week.
Piqua — Simply put, the Tippecanoe Red Devils could not stop the Piqua Indians.
The Indians may, however, have put a stop to the Red Devils post-season streak.
Junior Ben Schmiesing ran for 167 yards and caught 5 passes for 57 more and scored three touchdowns to lead the Indians to a hard-fought 27-20 win over the Red Devils at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
“It was a big win for us,” said Piqua head coach Bill Nees after his 182nd victory as the Indians head coach. “We are 7-2 and have put ourselves in good position for our big rival game with Troy next week. We still have a ways to go. We have areas that we can get better in. The thing I like about our team is they are willing to get better. We aren’t fat and happy.”
“I just feel bad for my seniors,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge said outside the Tipp locker-room after the Red Devils fell to 6-3. “Our kids played with a lot if heart, they have all year. Being down two scores late was tough, but we got that late touchdown, and kicked off deep, and they got five first downs. We just didn’t stop the run tonight.”
The Indians sixth straight win sets up a major collision with arch-rival Troy next Friday for the GWOC American North championship. Piqua is 7-2, while Troy is 8-1 after beating Greenville 42-21. Both teams are a perfect 4-0 in the division.
Tippecanoe will close the season against 5-4 Butler, a 52-28 winner over Sidney. The Red Devils have to win that game, and will likely need some help to qualify for the playoffs for the 12th straight season.
The Red Devils got off to a strong start, going 60 yards in 13 plays to the Piqua 3 on their first possession. On fourth down, Tippecanoe settled for Caiden Smith’s 20 yard field goal and their only lead of the night.
“We just wanted to get points off the first drive,” Derge explained. “We only got a yard on second and third down, so we wanted the points. We didn’t know how the defense would play at that point, and mentally, we thought we needed to get something out of that drive.”
Piqua then got the ball for the first time and set the tone for the night. The Indians marched 69 yards in ten plays, with Schmiesing scoring from the 9 to give the Indians a lead they would never relinquish. Robbie Comstock’s kick made it 7-3.
The Indians recovered a Tipp fumble at the Red Devils 41 yard line, but failed to capitalize, turning the ball over on downs at the Red Devil 8. The Red Devils then marched to the Piqua 15, including a 60-yard run by Nyles Anderson. The Indians defense held for a second time,however, and Smith counted again, this time from 33 yards out to cut the lead to one.
In last week’s 36-26 win over Vandalia-Butler, the Indians had possessions late in the first half and to start the second half, but failed to score on either. Faced with the same scenario this week, the Indians capitalized on both to take control of the game.
Quarterback Austin Davis, who completed 13 of 16 passes for 111 yards, found Nate Monnin in the end zone on a fourth and goal to give Piqua a 14-6 lead at the break. After the bands performed, Piqua marched 69 yards in 12 plays, and took 6 minutes and 20 seconds off the third quarter clock. Schmiesing ran it in from the four, to make it 21-6.
The Red Devils don’t know the meaning of the word quit, and they quickly got back in the game. A 75 yard, 9 play drive ended with Nyles Anderson’s 15-yard run, and Piqua’s lead was 21-13.
After the teams exchanged the only two punts of the night, the Indians offensive machine got back into high gear. Schmiesing had runs of 10 and 17 yards, Allen Schrubb, who finished with 87 yards on 19 carries, added runs of 21 and 11 yards, and Piqua went 87 yards in 9 plays. Schmiesing ran thru the Tipp defense for a 17 yard score, his 14th touchdown of the season, to put the Indians back up by two scores.
“Their size and strength were keys to the game,” Derge said, shaking his head. “They have a lot of experience and a lot of talent, much like the team we played in the playoffs last year. They ran behind that size all night, and were able to move the ball effectively.
Tipp scored for the final time with 3:53 left when sophomore Josh Walland caught a deflected pass from Aaron Hughes and danced into the end zone. Tipp passed on the onside kick and kicked deep into the end zone, but Piqua strung together 5 consecutive first downs to run out the clock.
“It feels amazing to be able to do that for my team,” said Schmiesing, as personable as he is talented, talking about his big night. “We didn’t talk about it much, but we really wanted this one badly after what happened in the playoffs last year” (a 37-12 Piqua loss).
“Ben always does great things for us,” Nees praised when asked about the juniors’ performance. “Our running backs both do a great job of hanging onto the football. There were a couple of series late in the game where they were coming after that football. Our guys didn’t give it up and we were able to make a couple of first downs to seal the game.”
“It’s hard to win when you can’t stop the run,” Derge lamented. “They were big and physical, and they executed all night. They didn’t turn the ball over either, so that makes it very difficult when they don’t make any mistakes.”
Nees said last year’s playoff opening loss to the Red Devils wasn’t a big factor during the week.
“This is a different team, and it has a different chemistry. We looked at clips and said this guy should have done this, and sometime that guy was in the room and sometime he wasn’t. It was a motivation for the coaches, definitely. But we didn’t burn the film, or go around screaming and yelling all week.”
Now it’s on to Troy week for the Indians, and Nees said the week is always a little different.
“We don’t have school on Friday, there is the pep rally Thursday night, and the players go to other schools in the district. So everybody has a some extra duties. The big thing is make sure that as you do your duty you keep in mind that the people that are enjoying seeing you during the week eventually want you to win the football game on Friday night. That is their ultimate responsibility.”
“There is nothing like playing against Troy,” Schmiesing said with a grin. “There is a lot of stuff going on during the week, and getting motivated is easy. My mind set is that this game is over, and now it’s Troy week. We will work hard next week and be ready to go.”
Troy’s resurgence makes next weeks meeting the biggest in several years.
“It should be a great atmosphere next week,” Nees said of the 132nd renewal of the oldest rivalry in Ohio, which the Indians lead 63-62-6 after winning the last four meetings. “The Piqua-Troy game will be one of the, if not the biggest game of the week. It’s good that it’s relevant again.”