By Rob Kiser
Piqua football fans can burn up their computers trying to figure out all the possibilities for the Indians getting into the playoffs.
The football team will have no trouble staying focused on the game Friday night.
Number two, they have to win for any of the rest to matter.
And Number One, it is TROY.
A fourth straight win in the series — which started in 1899 — by Piqua would break the 62-62-6 deadlock in the series.
It is for the Battle on Miami Trophy as well as the Greater American Rivalry Series trophy.
The Great American Rivalry Series will also do Hall of Fame inductions before the game and award and MVP trophy after the game.
And most importantly, it is TROY.
“It is (a special week),” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “It is great to be part of the Great American Rivalry Series again. The big thing is keeping the guys on a regular schedule. It is going to be a challenge because there is no school Friday. We have got to find a way to keep them (the players) in their regular routine.”
Troy comes in with a record of 2-7 overall and 1-3 in the GWOC North, while the Indians are 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the GWOC North.
Both teams have suffered several heartbreaking losses — including last week.
Troy led much of the game against Vandalia-Butler before losing, while Piqua lost 17-14 to Sidney on a field goal in the final two minutes.
The Trojans also have a two-point loss to Northwest and a three-point loss to Xenia, while Piqua has a double-overtime loss to Lima Senior and losses of seven points to Butler and eight points to Northmont.
“It probably was good (to have the Troy game after the loss to Sidney),” Nees said. “The kids were ready to go right after the game. But, it would have been the same even if we had won.”
This will be a very different looking Troy offense under first-year coach Matt Burghbacher.
Junior quarterback Hayden Kotwica (6-1, 167) is fifth in the GWOC in passing, having completed 137 of 260 passes for 1,929 yards with 17 TDs and 11 interceptions.
He has spread the ball around.
His top three receivers are senior Luke Robinson (6-3, 181), sophomore Zach Boyer (6-2, 171) and junior running back Hayden Jackson (5-8, 142).
Robinson has 34 catches for 526 yards and four TDs, while Boyer has 26 catches for 332 yards and two TDs and Jackson adds 21 catches for 407 yards and five TDs.
“They throw the ball a lot more,” Nees said. “They operate primarily out of the shotgun with one back.”
Kotwica also leads the Trojans in rushing attempts with 429 yards on 125 carries, while junior running back Marc Scorida (5-10, 182) has rushed for 460 yards on 109 carries.
“Everything revolves around him (Hayden Kotwica),” Nees said. “He has a lot of touches.”
Defensively, the Trojans operate out of a 50 look.
Senior defensive lineman Jared Bair (6-3, 227) leads the defense with 60 tackles and 4.5 sacks, while junior linebacker Will Brumfield (6-1, 181) has 52 tackles and two sacks. Both have forced two fumbles.
Sophomore defensive back Drake McDonaugh (5-10,167) is tied for fifth in the GWOC with three interceptions, while senior Austin Jacobs (5-11, 172) has two. Both have one return for a touchdown.
“They are pretty mobile on defense,” Nees said. “They make you earn everything you get.”
Piqua counters with the second leading rusher in the GWOC North in junior Darien Tipps-Clemons (6-1, 213), who has rushed for 1,323 yards and 21 TDs.
Senior quarterback Rupert Delacruz (5-10, 176) has completed 78 of 142 passes for 1,137 yards and five TDs, with three interceptions.
Senior Noah Lyman (6-4, 188) leads the Piqua receivers with 32 catches for 646 yards and four TDs.
Defensively, senior linebacker Jarrett Toopes (6-1, 211) leads Piqua with 54 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Ben Schmiesing (6-0, 199) has 49 and Tipps-Clemons adds 48.
Sophomore defensive lineman Derek Hite (6-2, 248) is fifth in the GWOC with 5.5 sacks and has forced three fumbles.
Senior Alex Nees (5-10, 176) and junior Dylan Cole (5-11, 190) are tied for fifth in the GWOC with three interceptions.
Overall, Piqua has been an opportunistic team with a plus-13 turnover ratio.
But, they missed some opportunities to cash in off turnovers against Sidney.
“I think the kids are chomping at the bit to get back on the field.”
As for the playoff possibilities.
In simplest terms, there are five teams vying for two spots in Division III, Region 10, with the top eight advancing to the postseason.
Goshen (7-2) is seventh and plays 6-3 Western Brown.
Belmonst (7-1) is eighth and plays 4-5 Dunbar, who has played a much tougher schedule.
St. Marys (6-3) is ninth and plays 6-3 Ottawa-Glandorf.
Piqua is 1oth and Wilmington (7-2) is 11th and playing 6-3 Chillicothe.
“Three of those teams are playing teams that have to win to get in the playoffs,” Nees said. “We aren’t going to look at anything until we win the game.”
After all, it is TROY.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.