By Rob Kiser
A year ago, Piqua faced a Trotwood-Madison team that was coming off a stunning loss to Troy and handed the Rams a second straight loss en route to the D-III playoffs.
Who knew, less than a year later, the Indians would find themselves in the same situation again.
Piqua, 1-0, opened the season with a 48-0 win over Meadowdale and travels to Trotwood, who lost 10-6 to Troy in its season opener. It is a crossover game this year — with Piqua in the GWOC American North and Trotwood moving to the GWOC American South.
“Let’s hope the results are the same,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said.
But, Nees knows that will not come easy.
The Rams return one of the most highly touted running backs in the Dayton area.
Raveion Hargrove, a 5-7, 165-pound junior, rushed for 1,932 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore, but was limited to 75 yards on 17 carries against Troy.
Also returning are junior quarterback Markell Stephens-Pepper (5-9, 150), who completed 86 of 178 passes last year for 1,083 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Also returning is junior Caleb Johnson (6-1, 150) who had 42 receptions for 450 yards last year.
“They have a running back who rushed for almost 2,000 yards, their quarterback and their leading receiver back,” Nees said. “They are pretty athletic at the skill positions.”
One of the keys for Piqua, will be limiting big plays.
“If we can contain — keep the ball inside in front of us, that will be important,” Nees said. “They have two of their offensive lineman back, so they have a pretty good group coming back on offense.”
The Rams managed just one score against Troy.
“They have a good mix between the pass and the run,” Nees said.
Defensively, the Rams will show an even-front look.
“Their defense is similar to ours, except they will extend the ends a little more,” Nees said. “The show a mix of zone and man coverage in the secondary. Their top four returning tacklers are in the secondary. They have a lot of new guys up front. They have one linebacker back.”
Piqua is coming off a strong performance in the opener.
Quarterback Austin Davis (5-11, 200, junior) completed five of 10 passes for 119 yards and a TD in the opener.
Seniors Allen Schrubb (6-1, 237) and Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-2, 218) combined to rush for 264 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Hayden Schrubb (6-2, 163) had a 53-yard reception and junior Ben Schmiesing (6-2, 197) caught a touchdown pass and had a pick-six on defense.
“I thought everything went pretty well,” Nees said. “The goal now is to get better with every game.”
Defensively, the Indians came back in the second half Saturday and shut down Meadowdale — after the game was suspended Friday night.
Against Piqua’s big defensive line, Meadowdale never had any success running the ball. And in the final two quarters, the Lions had just one first down and one completion for minus-5 yards.
“They (Medowdale came back and changed their attack a little on Saturday, using some tight ends and we did a good job against it,” Nees said.
Schmiesing led the defense with six tackles and the interception, while Tipps-Clemons had four tackles and senior Hunter Hawk (5-10, 158) had two interceptions.
“One of the keys against Trotwood is we need to affect the passer with the height of our defensive line and getting their arms up,” Nees said. “We were able to do that nine times last week and we need to do the same thing again.”
Another key for Piqua was the play of sophomore Zayne Arbogast (6-0, 226) stepping in at defensive end and the adjustments made when center Colten Meyer went down with an early injury Friday.
Senior Tristen Cox (6-4, 308) handle the duties on Friday, while helping stuff the Lions running game on defense — and junior Bryce Walling (6-2, 232) took over the center position on Saturday for the second half.
“Once we knew he was going to be playing and our center coach Eric Barge had a chance to work with him and get him ready, I think Bryce (Walling) did an outstanding job,” Nees said. “On Friday, when Tristen (Cox) gets thrown in there and you are scrambling a little bit, heads up to everybody on that one.”
Now comes a big road game with the Rams — and hopes of a repeat of last year’s success.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.