By Rob Kiser
Editor’s Note: Piqua has clinched a playoff berth and will play at either Tippecanoe or Wapakoneta in the first round next Friday at 7:30 p.m. Goshen, St. Marys and Wilmington all lost and Piqua currently sits in the seventh spot.
TROY — Regardless of whether Piqua football makes the postseason, the Indians put an exclamation point on the regular season Friday night with a convincing 26-7 win over Troy.
The Indians improved to 6-4 overall and finished 3-2 in the GWOC North, while Troy closed at 2-8 and 1-4.
And it was exactly the finish Darien Tipps-Clemons was looking for on his way to earning the Rivalry Series MVP award for the game.
“This was for the seniors,” the junior running back, who finished with 245 yards and three touchdowns unofficially on 24 carries said. “This was for them.”
As for the MVP trophy, Tipps-Clemons had watched his friend and former running back Trent Yeomans win it in the previous two years.
“I wanted to win it last year, but I am glad he (Trent Yeomans) got it,” Tipps-Clemons said. “Honestly, they shouldn’t give the award to one person. Our whole team deserves a piece of it. If they are going to give to me, I will take it, but the whole team deserves the MVP.
After outgaining Troy 256-92 in the opening half, Piqua had a drive at the end of the half end in a missed field goal and led just 7-0 on 4-yard run by quarterback Rupert Delacruz and Noah Lyman’s kick for the PAT.
“The message (at halftime) was just keep doing what we are doing,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said.
Tipps-Clemons wanted more and on the second play of the second half — after a 12-yard run on first-and-15, Clemons found an opening on the left side and rambled 66 yards for a TD. The PAT failed and Piqua led 13-0 with 10:59 remaining in the third quarter.
“I felt like we need to come out and take the momentum,” Tipps-Clemons said. “I came around the left side and there was a big hole. I kind of slowed down for a little bit. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but it was all good.”
The Piqua defense, as they did all night, shut down Troy and a 15-yard punt gave Piqua the ball at the Troy 29.
On fourth-and-one from the ten, Tipps-Clemons ran five yards, then bulled his way into the end zone from the five on the next play and Lyman’s kick made it 20-0 with 5:09 left in the third quarter.
“We had a lot of good things happen there at the start of the second half,” Nees said. “Really, we controlled things the whole game.”
After Piqua’s only punt, Troy threatened to get back in the game.
The Trojans put together a 62-yard drive, with Hayden Kotwica connecting with Luke Robinson on a 39-yard pass to the Piqua four and Kotwica scoring from the one three plays later. Jacob Anderson’s kick made it 20-7 and two unsportsmanlike penalties on Piqua allowed Troy to kickoff from the Piqua 30.
The Indians covered the squib kick at the nine with 9:20 remaining.
“Things could have got interesting,” Nees said. “I thought Allen Schrubb just picked us up and carried us. He had three big runs on that drive.”
Schrubb had a 14-yard run on a third-and-one early in the drive and on first-and-goal from the seven — after running for a first down, took the ball down to the one-yard line. Tipps-Clemons finished a six-minute plus drive on the next play to seal the Piqua win and make the final 26-7.
But, maybe the biggest play on the drive was Delacruz hooking up with tight end Nathan Monnin on a 51-yard pass on third-and14 from the Piqua 38 down to the Troy 19.
“That was a huge play,” Nees said. “Rupert (Delacruz) just made great decisions back there all night.”
Troy drove down before turning the ball over on downs and Piqua took a knee twice to finish off the win.
Tom Lyman was inducted into the Great American Rivalry Series Hall of Fame before the game and Jack Schmiesing received a scholarship as Piqua’s scholar athlete. The win gives Piqua a 63-62-6 lead in the series.
Then, it was time to go track down scores, although Piqua may not know until the Belmont-Dunbar game tonight if they made the playoffs.
“We have to get in,” Tipps-Clemons said. “I think if we do, we are going to have some momentum going into the playoffs.”
And no matter what, the Indians took care of business Friday night.
As one long time Piqua football staffer told Delacruz near the end of the game, this (beating Troy) never gets old.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.