By David Fong
TROY — At the time, it was the loudest roar Spencer Klopfenstein had ever heard on a football field.
Impressive, considering it was for warm-ups.
“I remember jogging out for warm-ups before the game — it’s the only game I’ve ever heard people cheering for warm-ups,” said Klopfenstein, who was then a sophomore tight end for the Troy football team preparing to take on Piqua in the final game of the 2016 season. “It was crazy. It’s like no other game.”
Klopfenstein now is one of two-dozen Troy seniors preparing to take on Piqua for the final time Friday at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium in the 134th meeting between the two historic rivals. All of those seniors realize the significance of Friday’s game.
“I’m kind of feeling every emotion right now,” senior outside linebacker Sam Jackson said. “I’m happy, I’m nervous, I’m excited — this game means a lot to me. It’s pretty much all you hear about from people out in the public. They keep asking if we are ready for Friday and tell us we need to take care of business. There are a lot of people who may not come to all of our games during the season, but they know when this game is and they are going to be there.”
Jackson will be the lone Trojan playing in his fourth Troy-Piqua game, a rarity in the rivalry. He was called up to the varsity midway through his freshman season and got to play in The Game that year. The Trojans lost that contest, but have since won the past two meetings.
“It was definitely a big jump from middle school football, seeing the stands that packed,” Jackson said. “It was definitely a great experience for me, being able to play in that game. I definitely got a taste of how to play and what to do in this game. I think I’ve got a lot more confidence now and know what to expect.”
Klopfenstein said this game is a way for a highly decorated senior class — the Trojans already have wrapped up a share of a third-straight Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title and a third-straight trip to the playoffs — to etch their names a little deeper into the history books.
“This is a way for us to cement our legacy,” he said. “This is a game that everyone looks forward to every year.”
With so much pressure and so much attention on the game, Klopfenstein said it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand.
“I do get nervous before the game, but once you put on the pads and start hitting, you have to just calm down and play football,” he said.
In addition to Jackson and and Klopfenstein, other Troy seniors playing in their final Troy-Piqua game include: Caillou Monroe, Jaydon Culp-Bishop, Jacob Adams, Mark Summers, Blake Burton, Kobe Feltner, Shane Shoop, Noah Young, Jacob Shoop, Garrett Jones, Zach Collett, Austin Blair, Ethan Burns, Collier O’Connor, Marshall Brueckman, Zach Niswonger, Nathan Garber, Jesse Westmeyer, Brandon Hicks, Ben Merritt and Preston Jackson.
More on the game:
When and Where
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium. As is usually the case when the two teams play, parking and seating both will be at a premium. There also will be a number of pre-game activities scheduled, so you may want to plan on getting there early.
Troy comes into the game 8-1 (4-0 in the GWOC North), while Piqua is 6-3 (3-1). The two teams have played just four common opponents this season, all from the GWOC North: Tippecanoe, Sidney, Butler and Greenville. Both teams beat Tippecanoe, Sidney and Greenville.
Troy beat Butler 25-0, while Butler beat Piqua 27-25.
What’s At Stake
For both teams, there’s a lot more on the line than just the annual bragging rights — which is in no way meant to diminish just how important those bragging rights are, of course.
For starters, there’s the GWOC North Division title. Troy already has clinched at least a share of the GWOC North title. A win would give the Trojans the title outright. Should Piqua win, it would force a three-way tie atop the GWOC North and all three teams — Troy, Piqua and Butler — would share the crown, should Butler beat Tippecanoe. A Butler loss to Tippecanoe would mean Troy and Piqua share the title. A similar situation happened in 2000 in the now-defunct Greater Miami Valley Conference, when Troy beat Piqua, Piqua beat Butler and Butler beat Troy. All three teams shared the title that year.
Troy already has clinched a Division II playoff berth and likely will get a home game in the first round. A win would ensure a home game for the Trojans. Piqua currently is on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, but a win against Troy would likely be enough to get the Indians into the Division III postseason.
The First Game
Troy and Piqua first played in 1899. The two teams played twice that season, with Troy winning both games, 17-0 and 7-5.
Contrary to popular belief, Troy vs. Piqua is not Ohio’s oldest rivalry. That honor goes to Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington, a rivalry that dates back to 1894. Sandusky vs. Fremont Ross (first played in 1895) and Dover vs. New Philadelphia (1896) also are older than Troy vs. Piqua.
What Troy vs. Piqua is, however, is the most-played rivalry in Ohio. No two Ohio high school football teams have played more times than the Trojans and Indians. From that first meeting in 1899 until 1921, the two teams would frequently face off twice per season, allowing them to jump ahead of the older rivalries in terms of the number of games played.
So how many times have Troy and Piqua played? The two teams have played 133 times, with Troy leading the series 64-63-6, an incredible statistic when one considers how long the two teams have been playing.
There are some historians who would argue Troy and Piqua have played only 132 times, with the series tied 63-63-6. There is evidence to support one of the games played in the early 1900s was not a game between students from the two high schools, but actually a “city game,” featuring players — many of them grown men — who didn’t necessarily attend either school. Troy won that game, which some feel should be stricken from the record.
Both schools, however, officially recognize the series having been played 133 times.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong