By Rob Kiser
Friday night will be a special night at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
And it goes far beyond Piqua looking for its second straight 2-0 start.
The “Indian Nation” suffered a huge loss earlier this month when former Piqua player and coach John Apple passed away unexpectedly.
There will be a special ceremony at halftime, with Apple’s family being presented a plaque in tribute to Apple that will remain at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field.
There will also be a special presentation on the video board at the stadium as well.
Anyone who played with Apple or was coached by him is encouraged to attend the game and take part in the halftime ceremony.
As for the game, Nees expects the Indians to face another challenge this week.
While the Hillclimbers are coming off a 42-30 loss to London, Nees said don’t be fooled.
“London is a very good football team,” Nees said. “That was no slouch Urbana lost to.”
The Climbers will again feature a spread offense.
Sophomore quarterback Levi Boettcher (6-5, 195) passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns, completing 13 of 34 passes.
Sophomore receiver Alex Lohnes (5-10, 153) had six receptions for 147 yards, while freshman Max Niswonger (5-11, 175) had four receptions for 86 yards.
Junior Nick Johnson (6-1, 195) had 101 yards rushing on 11 carries.
“They have another big quarterback,” Nees said. “They are going to run a wide-open offense. I think their receivers are 1-2 in the CBC and they have a good mix of power and speed with their two running backs.”
Senior Keith Gale (5-11, 230) led the defense with 13 tackles and a sack.
“The bulk of their experience is on the offensive and defensive lines,” Nees said. “They are similar to us. They play an even front with four linebackers and three deep (in the defensive backfield).”
Piqua showed a lot of balance on offense last week in a 34-30 win over St. John’s.
Junior Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-1, 213) rushed for 232 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, while senior Elijah Hudson (6-1, 186) rushed for two TDs and senior Noah Lyman (6-4, 188) had six catches for 208 yards.
“I think we were happy for the most part with the offense,” Nees said. “Noah Lyman had some great catches and Darien Tipps-Clemons runs hard. The key to the whole thing was Elijah Hudson and Allen Schrubb did a great job blocking for Darien and he did a great job blocking for them.”
Rupert Delacruz completed seven of 10 passes for 259 yards, with one interception.
“We have three very good running backs,” Nees said. “Colton Bachman is still working his way back (from injury) and we have some other guys we feel like we can get the ball too.”
Sophomore defensive end Derek Hite (6-2, 248) had a sack to keep St. Johns from scoring on the final play of the first half and finished with six tackles. Junior defensive back Dylan Cole (5-11, 190) and senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes (6-1, 211) also had six tackles to lead the Indians.
“We made some plays that were game changers,” Nees said.
Nees was also happy with special teams.
“I thought we made great strides from the week before,” he said.
The one disappointment was letting St. John’s back in the game after Piqua had taken a 27-7 halftime lead and had the ball first to start the second half.
“The good news is we won the game,” Nees said. “The bad news is we let it become a close game. St. John’s is a good team, but we felt like it was what we did that let them in the game. We are not happy about the two turnovers. Both turnovers were unforced and we can’t have that.”
Nees would like nothing more that put a complete game together Friday — fitting for such a special night.