By David Fong
PIQUA — A grand total of eight points against a pair of state-ranked teams was all that separated the Piqua football team from having a good season and an outstanding season in 2017.
The Indians would go on to finish the year 6-4 — their third winning season in a row — but a 42-35 loss to eventual Division III state champion Trotwood-Madison in Week 2 and a 34-33 to Sidney in Week 6 likely kept Piqua from making its first postseason appearance since 2015.
All four of Piqua’s losses came against teams that would go on to qualify for the playoffs.
Piqua opened the season with a 50-12 drubbing of Meadowdale. Quarterback Austin Davis had a monster day, completing 10 of 16 passes for 179 yards and four touchdowns — two to Hayden Schrubb and one each Cale Meckstroth and Owen Toopes. Running back Ben Schmiesing had nine carries for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Arturo Mendoza also had a touchdown run.
That set up the much-anticipated contest against Trotwood in Week 2. Piqua took the early lead on a touchdown pass from Davis to Derek Hite, but Trotwood took a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter. After Piqua tied it on a Devon Brown touchdown run and Robbie Comstock extra point, Trotwood would take a two-score lead in the second half.
The Rams would sport a two-score lead twice in the second half, but both times Piqua battled back to within a score. Down 42-28 in the fourth quarter, Davis would connect with Schrubb on a 33-yard touchdown to cut the Rams’ lead to 42-35 with 3:10 to play. Piqua just missed recovering the extra point and Trotwood was able to run out the clock for the win.
That game — along with a 14-7 win against Division I powerhouse Wayne — would be the smallest margin of victory for the Rams all season as Trotwood went 15-0 and won the Division III state title.
“We will build on this,” Piqua coach Bill Nees said after the game. “Playing against this kind of competition is going to make you better.”
Davis completed 20 of 31 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Hite. Schrubb had 10 catches for 140 yards and a score.
The following week, Piqua ran into another playoff team and came away with a 21-7 loss to Franklin. Brown had the lone score for Piqua, which was held to just 155 yards in total offense.
In Week 4, Piqua rebounded with a 35-0 win over West Carrollton. The Indians led 28-0 at halftime, scored in the third quarter to go up 35-0 and played almost the entire second half under a running clock. Davis completed 11 of 16 passes for 204 and touchdowns to Schrubb and Meckstroth. Brown had 12 carries for 95 yards and a score, while Schmiesing added a touchdown run.
The Indians continued their winning ways the following week with a 36-20 win over Xenia. Davis completed 10 0f 19 passes for 164 and four touchdowns. Schrubb had three catches — all touchdowns — for 100 yards. Schmiesing had a touchdown run and a touchdown reception.
Piqua opened Greater Western Ohio Conference American League North Division play against Sidney, which came into the game undefeated. Piqua trailed 21-7 at halftime, but came storming back in the second half. Schmiesing’s touchdown run with 45 seconds to play in the game cut Sidney’s lead to 34-33.
Rather than kick the extra point and play overtime, the Indians went for the win. Sidney’s Isaiah Bowser was able to trip up Schmiesing in the backfield on the two-point conversion attempt, preserving the win for the Yellow Jackets.
Schmiesing finished the game with 13 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Brown had 20 carries for 83 yards and a score. Davis threw touchdown passes to Meckstroth and Schrubb, who had seven catches for 85 yards.
From there, Piqua would win its next three games in a row.
Against Greenville, Davis completed 12 of 14 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns. Schrubb had six receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns, while Meckstroth and Brown also added touchdown catches. Schmiesing had a touchdown run and Makeegan Kuhn returned an interception 69 yards for a score. Piqua led 35-0 at halftime and went on to win 42-7.
In Week 8, Piqua took on Butler in a “Thursday Night Lights” contest.
Schrubb had a huge night for the Indians, hauling in eight catches for 149 yards and four touchdowns, including a 29-yard strike from Davis with just 2:13 to play to give the Indians the lead in what had been a tie game.
Butler appeared to be driving for a possible score late, but Schmiesing would strip the ball from a Butler receiver and fall on its himself to preserve the victory. Schmiesing finished with 21 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 11 tackles on defense. Davis completed 13 of 25 passes for 22 yards and four scores to Schrubb.
In Week 9, Piqua defeated Tippecanoe 40-28 in a nip-and-tuck game that wasn’t decided until Davis broke loose on a 45-yard touchdown run to give the Indians some breathing room with 1:06 to play in the game.
In addition to the touchdown run, Davis also completed 17 of 19 passes for 230 yards and touchdowns to Schrubb and Owen Toopes. Schmiesing had 20 carries for 20 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Blankenship added a touchdown run.
The Indians closed the season against rival Troy in the 133 meeting between the two teams. Heavy rains — which began hours before the game, never stopped during the game and continued hours after the game had ended — slowed Piqua’s high-powered offense. Piqua managed just 118 yards in total offense, with its lone score in a 32-8 loss coming off Schmiesing’s 32-yard fumble return.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong