By Rob Kiser
You might think Piqua would be in danger of a letdown after the Indians’s huge win over Trotwood-Madison last Friday, which moved Piqua up to sixth in the D-III, Region 10 computer ratings.
Piqua coach Bill Nees said there are a lot of reasons why that is not a concern.
First, Piqua will be playing to keep the “Battered Helmet” in town.
“This is the first of two rivalry games,” Nees said. “The kids take a lot of pride in keeping the Battered Helmet. The advantage of having an experienced staff is we talked about Trotwood for about 15 minutes when we got back (Friday night). Then, we already started tinkering with (what they were going to do against) Sidney.
“It was on to Sidney. The other thing is we have a lot of seniors who are three-year starters and junior who are two-year starters. This is a very mature team.”
There is do denying the battle for the “Battered Helmet” has favored Piqua in recent times.
Piqua has won 31 of 35 meetings since 1979 and 11 0f the last 12, with Sidney’s last win coming in 2009.
But, this is a much different Sidney team that will visit Alexander Stadium/Purk Field Friday night.
Freshman quarter Andre Gordon (6-0, 168) has sparked the Jackets to a 5-3 record overall and 1-2 in the GWOC North, while Piqua is 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the GWOC North.
The speedy Gordon has rushed for 749 yards and 12 touchdown on 116 carries, while completing 66 of 103 passes for 1,008 yards and eight TDs with five interceptions.
“There is no question he has played well since making the move (to quarterback),” Nees said.
Sophomore Isaiah Browser (5-10, 164) has 736 yards and nine touchdowns rushing on 122 carries.
Senior Daryl McNeal (5-11, 172) leads the receivers with 40 catches for 390 yards and three TDs, while senior Damien Duff (5-10, 160) and junior Allec Gordon (6-1, 208) have combined for 37 catches for 631 yards and seven TDs.
“They have two running backs that go back and forth,” Nees said. “He (Andre Gordon) is dangerous scrambling. He has a lot of speed. He has a lot of ways to hurt you and so does (Daryl) McNeal. I think the biggest thing we need to do is keep things clogged up in front of us.”
Defensively, Sidney will play a 3-3 stack.
Senior linebacker Sam Niswonger (5-8, 168) leads the defense with 55 tackles, while sophomore defensive lineman Devon Rogers (6-0, 259) has 52 tackles and three sacks and junior defensive lineman Javon Purk (6-2, 191) has 50 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Junior defensive back Xavier Wise (5-10, 149) has four interceptions, while McNeal has two.
“They don’t blitz as much as teams who play the 3-3 stack usually do,” Nees said. “But, they move really well.”
The Trotwood game, like the entire season, was a big win for Piqua in the turnover battle.
Allen Schrubb and Tristen Cox recovered fumbles, while Alex Nees and Andrew Lee picked off passes. Piqua is now plus-13 for the season in the turnover battle and has not had a turnover in four weeks.
“That is a huge swing for us (from last year),” Nees said. “And it is really hard to say who is doing a better job — the offense not turning the ball over or the defense coming up with turnovers.”
Junior running back Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-1, 213) ran for four more touchdowns last week to run his season total to 20.
“He just seems to make a big play every time we need it,” Nees said.
He is GWOC’s second-leading rusher, with 1,231 yards on 164 carries, while senior Elijah Hudson (6-1, 186) and junior Allen Schrubb (6-0, 223) have five TDs each, combining for 512 yards rushing.
Senior quarterback Rupert Delacruz (5-10, 176) continues to be efficient.
He has completed 66 of 117 passes for 1,035 yards, with four TDs and two interceptions.
Senior Noah Lyman (6-4, 188) leads the receivers with 27 catches for 556 yards and three TDs.
Junior tight end Nathan Monnin (6-5, 249) has caught 11 passes for 106 yards and one score, while junior slot Hunter Hawk (5-9, 165) has caught eight passes for 119 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Ben Schmiesing (6-0, 199) leads the defense with 43 tackles.
Senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes (6-1, 211) has 42 and Tipps-Clemons is next with 40.
Sophomore defensive end Derek Hite (6-2, 248) has 4.5 sacks, while Monnin has added 3.5 sacks.
Nees (5-10, 176) and junior Dylan Cole (5-11, 190) are tied for fourth in the GWOC North with three interceptions, while Schmiesing and senior Andrew Lee (6-0, 179) both have two.
“I think they are (the defense playing with confidence),” Nees said. “I think it is a mature group with a lot of experience.”
Something you can say about the entire Piqua team — who understand they need to match last week’s effort to move their playoff hopes forward and keep the “Battered Helmet” at home.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.