If what once “was” really can become what “is” again, there’s some compelling reasons why you should plan to see this year’s Troy-Piqua football game.
Look, there’ll be plenty of nostalgia written this week about Friday night’s GWOC clash, the annual rivalry meeting – the “battle of route 25A – between the 8-1 Troy Trojans and the 7-2 Piqua Indians.
In truth, there’s been plenty written for the past 50 years. Just about everyone connected with local media will pen something this week over how much the rivalry means to the two communities; and Troy’s David Fong has an excellent book out on the topic. It’s a good rainy day read.
I’ve personally been to a lot of Troy-Piqua games since taking residence in Miami County in the fall of 1964. I’ve gotten to know a lot of past participants – sat in former Piqua coach Chuck Asher’s study hall as a student, beside future Michigan star and NFL defensive lineman, Dave Gallagher.
I’ve watched the best from Troy play in this game…Gordon Bell, Mike Delwiche, Ryan Brewer, and in my opinion the best individual performance of all…by Cory Brown in the 2007 game that Troy won on a last-second two-point conversion. That back-and-forth affair ranks in the top five football games I’ve ever seen…anywhere!
As to the term rivalry – I understand the meaning and the significance of something that happens annually between two teams just eight miles apart. It’s good when people from the respective communities have something like that to anticipate, to support. And never more than now.
But the times are a-changin’ for the cities of Piqua and Troy. The years have taken – are taking – their toll. There’s a lot of familiar faces missing from the “rivalry” now, and drama, as well.
Steve Nolan is no longer coaching at Troy. Retired, it’s hard to think of him not stalking the sideline.
Ferdie Murphy, from Troy, is no longer in the stands, with Edie, as part of their weekend in ritual of football that started with a Trojans’ game, moved to Ohio Stadium for the Buckeyes on Saturday, and finished with 50-yard line seats for the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. Ferdie passed away almost two years ago.
Bill Cummins, from Piqua, left us even before Ferdie. Bill loved this football game. His son, Keith, was a football star at Piqua in the mid-60s, and later at Cornell University. Bill and wife Jane counted it a matter of pride for the county over how much this game meant to the two communities – something to anticipate and plan for throughout the year. He often used it as an example of character and sportsmanship when he taught his weekly Sunday school lessons at the Baptist church in Piqua.
Yes, rivalries change, times change…interests change!
In recent years, as the significance of football itself has been questioned – as the pace of everyday life has quickened –fewer people show up for high school football games, even the Troy-Piqua game.
Some of this has to do with the relevancy of the game. Steven Nolan won five in a row, and won them handily, from 2007-’11, before retiring after the 2011 season. Piqua has gone on to win the past four, handily, in Nolan’s absence. There hasn’t been much drama.
You see, even the biggest of rivalries can suffer. They still fill the stands at the Ohio State-Michigan games, of course, but for the fact of the matter OSU has won 12 of the past 13 and most people have come to take the outcome for granted. It simply isn’t a rivalry if one teams wins every year. Thankfully, Jim Harbaugh is changing that now as the latest coach at Michigan – what Bo Schembechler did when he took over the Wolverines in the early 70s.
And needing a Harbaugh-esque shot in the arm, the Troy-Piqua game is again in the forefront of this week’s conversation as second-year coach Matt Burgbacher has resurrected Trojan football, standing 8-1 and ranked second in this week’s regional poll. This week’s game portends a playoff appearance for Piqua should the Indians win, as well as the two teams sharing the league title.
“Football matters again in Troy,” said Burgbacher recently. “The kids themselves have bought in and people are coming up to me at my son’s pee-wee game to talk about the game on Friday night. That’s a good thing.”
Yes it is.
And even venerable Bill Nees, in his 26th year at Piqua, acknowledged the issue last week when he said, “This year’s game will be one of, if not the biggest game of the week (meaning in the area). It’s good that it’s relevant again.”
Yes it is.
And for that matter I hope a lot of people show up at Alexander Stadium on Friday, dressed in scarlet and gray…or red and blue…instead of coming disguised as an empty seat.
Ferdie Murphy would have said that it’s good for Troy, a tradition worth keeping, something for future generations.
Bill Cummins would have agreed – would have said that it sends the right message to the kids who play and watch.
And if people are crediting Jim Harbaugh for making Michigan relevant again in the big November rivalry with the Buckeyes, so too, must there be excitement for what Matt Burgbacher has done in two short years to bring flavor back to Troy-Piqua…or Piqua-Troy. A little sizzle with the steak.
That’s metaphoric, of course, as some will still choose this Friday as their night to go to Applebee’s, or Outback, the modern Friday tradition.
I’m just tellin’ you that there appears to be an equal option, if you can curb, or divert, your appetite. I’m saying that what’s cooking at Purk Field Friday will be more than an appetizer – a four-course meal.
Seriously, tastes do change. Rivalries change.
Let’s hope the menu favors Piqua-Troy…or Troy-Piqua…for a long time to come.