SBy David Fong
Imagine if Christmas fell in the middle of April.
Sounds ludicrous, of course.
Christmas has been, should be and always will be Dec. 25.
Now imagine the Troy vs. Piqua high school football game being played any other week but the last week of the regular season. For newcomers to the most-played high school football game in the state of Ohio, it seems absolutely illogical for the two rivals to play any other week but Week 10. Incredibly, however, more often than not through the history of the rivalry — which dates back to 1899 and will be played for the 134th time at 7 p.m. this Friday at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium — that has been the case.
This year’s game will mark the end of the regular season for both teams for the seventh year in a row. For the third year in a row, the game will help decide the fate of the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title and the playoff future for at least one team. Troy already has won at least a share of the North title and is has wrapped up a playoff berth, but a Piqua win would give the Indians a share of the North crown and a good chance at making the postseason.
Basically, it’s everything one could want from a rivalry game being played in the final week of the regular season.
Prior to 2012, however, the Troy vs. Piqua game was played in just about every slot on the schedule, from the first game to the last game.
In the 133 prior meetings between the Trojans and Indians, only 50 times — roughly 38 percent of the time — was the game played the final week of the regular season. For the sake of comparison, imagine the Ohio State and Michigan football teams playing most of their games throughout the storied history of the rivalry in mid-September.
When the two team first met in 1899, they played the final game of the season. Of course, they also played the second-to-last game of the season. Troy won the first game between the two teams, defeating Piqua 17-0. They would meet again a week later, this time with Troy pulling out a 7-5 victory by scoring a safety in the game’s final seconds.
The two teams would meet again in the final game of 1900, but following that contest, would not play again in the final game of the season until 1909. After not playing at all in 1910, the two teams would meet again in the final game of 1911 — since that season, the Trojans and Indians have played every year, making it the longest-continuous rivalry game in the state.
From 1918 to 1948, Troy vs. Piqua was the final game of the season — often played on Thanksgiving Day — the longest such streak in the history of the rivalry. Following that meeting in 1948, which ended in a 0-0 tie, the two teams would not meet again in the final game of the season until 1958. The two teams would play the final game of the regular season in 1958 and 1959, but incredibly, would not do it again until 1988.
At one point during that stretch, it became impossible for the Trojans and Indians to play the final week of the regular season In 1968, Troy left the Miami Valley League — both Troy and Piqua were charter members of the MVL in 1926 — to join the 10-team Western Ohio League. With nine league games on the Trojans’ schedule, the only spot open for Piqua — which remained in the MVL following Troy’s departure — was the first game of the regular season.
With neither school wanting the rivalry to die, that’s what happened and, from 1968-1981, one of the biggest high school rivalry games in the state opened every season.
In 1982, Troy left the WOL and, along with its old foe Piqua, helped form the Greater Miami Valley Conference. Being reunited in the same conference, however, did not guarantee the Trojans and Indians a marquee match-up in the final game of the season. Incredibly, 1988 and 1989 would be the only time the two teams met in the final game of the season, as the GMVC played a rotating schedule among all of its member teams.
Playing the game in the middle of the season — particularly through the 1990s — likely robbed players, coaches and fans of some memorable contests. During that decade, the two teams combined for nine GMVC titles and 10 total playoff appearances. When the two teams met during the regular season in 1992, both were undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in the Division I state poll. That game drew an estimated 14,000 fans to Troy Memorial Stadium.
It also took place in the fifth week of the regular season.
One can only imagine how that game would have looked had it been played the final week of the regular season.
When the two teams joined the Greater Western Ohio Conference mega-conference in 2001, the rotating schedules continued until, finally, it was moved to the final game of the regular season in 2012, where it has remained since. That move has paid off the past three years, in particular. In 2016, both the Trojans and Indians entered the game undefeated in GWOC North play, making it a winner-take-all affair. Last year, Troy had wrapped up a share of the title and, with a win over Piqua, was able to claim the crown outright. Had the Indians won, they would have been able to lay claim to a share of the North title.
This year, the two teams will play under similar circumstances as last year. Troy has its share of the title, but wouldn’t like to allow its bitter rival to have a piece of the crown. Piqua, on the other hand, must win to claim a share and get to the playoffs.
Next year, the two teams will leave the GWOC to help re-form the MVL. Officials from both schools have said measures already have been put in place to ensure the game remains in Week 10.
Where it belongs.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong