By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
SPRINGBORO — Piqua football coach Bill Nees has to be pleased with what he has seen in pre-season.
Especially after Friday night’s scrimmage at Springboro.
The Panthers had outscored Piqua 107-34 in regular season games the last two years.
This time, with the varsity playing the first half and the first two possessions of the third quarter (one offense, one defense), Piqua lost just 21-14.
“This team had pretty well handed it to us the last two years,” Nees said. “So, I think the kids leave the field feeling pretty good about what we did tonight.”
Piqua used a big play early to jump out to a 7-0 lead.
Austin Hall stepped in front of a Springboro pass at the Piqua 35 and returned it all the way to the Panther 5-yard line.
Two plays later, quarterback Rupert Delacruz sprinted into the end zone to make it 7-0.
“Big play,” Nees said about the interception. “One of the things we talked about was making big plays on offense and not giving up big plays on defense. And tonight I thought we did a good job of keeping the ball in front of us on defense.”
While, Springboro would score on its next three possessions to go up 21-7, Nees felt Piqua still did a lot of good things.
“That is a very talented offense,” he said.
Piqua answered wit ha 62-yard screen pass from Delacruz to Trent Yeomans with 7:04 remaining in the first half and Dylan Runge’s second PAT kick made it 21-14.
The Indians would use defensive pressure, including two sacks by Brendan Fries — to keep Springboro off the board the rest of the night.
“I thought our defensive line did a good job,” Nees said. “(Brendan) Fries got in there and had a couple sacks.”
Piqua had good field position on its possession in the third quarter after a 53-yard kickoff return by Tate Honeycutt — who averaged over 30 yards on returns for the night, breaking tackles on every return.
“Tate (Honeycutt) showed up big time tonight,” Nees said. “That shows you — sometimes when you don’t get the ball on offense, you can make plays on special teams and Tate did that tonight.”
Springboro’s final possession ended appropriately on a Fries sack.
For the night, Delacruz was six of 11 passing for 91 yard with a TD and an interception.
Piqua had just 36 yards rushing on 16 carries, with Yeomans and Delacruz both rushing for 16 yard.
Springboro finished with 102 yards rushing on 24 carries and 10 of 15 completions for 90 yards with one interception.
“We have a big game to get ready for now (Toledo St. Johns),” Nees said. “It is NFL weekend and we want to put on a good show. We still have some weapons on offense that we need to get in sync. But, there are always things you feel like you can do better.”
But, the Indians go into the regular season with a lot to feel good about.