By David Fong
For more than a quarter of a century, it’s been the same thing every Friday night in the fall.
But just like the tide rolling in, it may be predictable — but also difficult to do much about it.
Since Bill Ness’ arrival as Piqua’s defensive coordinator in the mid-1980s, followed by his ascension to head coach in 1992, the Indians have been running essentially the same defense. And year after year, teams struggle to find a way to wiggle through it.
“It’s the same Piqua 4-4 defense they’ve been running,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “They’ll do some different things out of it, but in general, it’s what has always worked for them up there and I’m sure it’s what they’ll keep doing as long as he is there.
“I think, with this game being Week 10, especially, we’ve both got plenty of film on one another. I don’t think there’s going to be many surprises from either team. At this point in the season, it comes down to execution — are we going to be able to stop what they want to do and are they going to be able to stop what we want to do?”
That’s the challenge the Troy (8-1, 4-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) offense faces when it travels to Piqua (6-3, 3-1) this Friday at Alexander Stadium in the 134th meeting between the two teams.
The Indian defense is line by junior inside linebackers Matt Blankenship (59 tackles) and Makeegan Kuhn (46 tackles). At the outside linebacker spots are freshman Coren Coleman (32) tackles and senior Micah Karn (15 tackles).
“They’ve got really good linebackers, like they always seem to,” Burgbacher said. “Blankenship and Kuhn make a lot of plays for them. Both of their outside linebackers are great athletes.”
At the defensive tackles are Brennan Toopes (35 tackles) and Zaybe Arbogast (10 tackles), while Grant Toopes (39 tackles) and Jerrell Lewis (32 tackles) occupy the defensive end spots.
“Their defensive linemen do more than just occupy blockers,” Burgbacher said. “They are all capable of making tackles. They’ve got a lot of playmakers on their defensive line.”
The cornerbacks are Owen Toopes (27 tackles, two interceptions) and Zane Beougher (37 tackles), while Blaine Ouhl (19 tackles, 1 interception) plays free safety.
“They are talented at defensive back,” Burgbacher said. “They’ve got a lot of speed and playmakers there.”
Troy will counter with an offense that is second in the 20-team GWOC in scoring (36.6 points per game) and fourth in yards per game (370.9). Piqua’s defense is giving up 18.1 points per game (11th in the GWOC) and 281.2 yards per game (ninth in the GWOC).
The Trojans are led by senior running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop, who leads the GWOC with with 199 carries for 1,739 yards and 28 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Brayden Siler has completed 84 of 134 passes (62.7 percent) for 1,205 yards, with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
The team’s leading receiver is tight end/h-back Spencer Klopfenstein, who has 22 catches for 309 yards and one touchdown. Slot receiver Shane Shoop has 12 catches for 222 yards and four touchdowns.
The offensive line consists of tackles Jesse Westmeyer and Nathan Garber, guards Marshall Brueckman, Jakob Moorman and Ethan Freed and center Riley Hubbard.
“They’ve got an explosive ground game, led by their tailback,” Piqua coach Bill Nees said. “He’s a threat to get out and go on every play. They have a power attack and zone read attack that stretches a defense. They get great complimentary play from their quarterback and receivers on bubbles and quarterback power read. Their h-back paves the way.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong