By David Fong
Matt Burgbacher has spent all week thinking about Micah Karn.
And with good reason.
So far this season, the Piqua football team has put up 2,777 yards in total offense. Karn, the Indians’ senior quarterback, has been responsible for 1,726 (62 percent) of them. So far this season, he’s completed 56-of-101 passes for 773 yards, with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s also Piqua’s rushing leader with 139 — more than the Indians’ next three rushers combined — for 953 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“He runs hard and he’s deceptively fast,” said Burgbacher, the Troy football coach. “You’ll see him on film and think there’s no way he’s going to gain anything, then he’ll pick up 7 or 8 yards. Or you’ll think you’ve got him for a 7- or 8-yard loss and he’ll break a big one.”
That’s what Burgbacher and the Trojans (8-1, 4-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division) will be faced with when they travel to Piqua’s Alexander Stadium Friday to take on the Indians (6-3, 3-1) in the 134th meeting between the two schools. Troy leads the series 64-63-6.
“Offensively, they do everything they have in the past — the biggest difference is they don’t throw the ball as much as they have the past few years, but they will run the quarterback more than they did in the past.
“He’s a great quarterback. They’ll have a lot of designed quarterback runs. They’ll spread you out like they are going to pass, then run the quarterback draw.They’ll line up in two-by-two (receivers) with no back, but they’ll also line up in double tight ends. They do a good job of not tipping their hat.”
While Karn is the main focus of the Piqua offense, however, he’s hardly the only weapon. At running back, the Indians have a variety of options. Coren Coleman has 51 carries for 274 yards and one touchdown. Makeegan Kuhn has 50 carries for 276 yards and five touchdowns. Jerrell Lewis has 40 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’ve got about six or seven running backs they can use out there,” Burgbacher said. “They are all good runners. They’ve got some bigger guys they’ll use and they’ve got some smaller, quicker guys they’ll use.”
Piqua’s leading receiver is Owen Toopes, who has 25 catches for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Brennan Toopes has five catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Three more receivers have at least five receptions this season.
“They have a number of guys who can catch the ball and a typical Piqua tight end — he’s effective catching the ball or blocking.”
Piqua’s likely starters on the offensive line will be Caden Clark, Riley Hill, Jacob Strayer, Jacob Hepner and Kaiden Maxwell.
“When I sit and look at their offensive line, I wonder if they graduated anyone at all in the last three years,” Burgbacher said. “They just reload on the offensive line every year. This is a typical Piqua offensive line — they are big and strong, but they also ask those guys to pull. They’ve got a couple of 300-pounders — I think their smallest guy is about 260 — but they all move well.”
Troy will try to counter all of that with a defense that has been one of the best in the GWOC all season. The Trojans are giving up 192.8 yards per game (first in the GWOC) and 10.8 points per game (second in the GWOC).
On the defensive line, Adam DeCerbo will get the start at noseguard, with Jakob Moorman also seeing time there. At the defensive tackles will be a rotation that includes Garrett Jones, Zach Niswonger, Austan Good, Sean Keenan and Colby Harris.
Troy’s linebackers are talented and experienced. Leading the way is outside linebacker Sam Jackson, who has 130 tackles, eight sacks and 16 tackles for loss this season. At the other outside linebacker will be Zach Niswonger (43 tackles) and Spencer Klopfenstein (43 tackles). At one inside linebacker spot will be Blake Burton (116 tackles, 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss). At the other inside linebacker will be Shane Shoop (83 tackles, two sacks, 11 tackles for loss).
At one cornerback will be Weston Smith, who leads the team with five interceptions. At the other corner will be Kobe Feltner (one interception). The safeties are Jacob Adams (two interceptions) and Jacob Shoop (one interceptions).
“Their excellent pre-snap movement allows them to go hard after the opponent run game,” Piqua coach Bill Nees said. “They are blitzing more this year and have great timing. Their secondary is solid, as usual.”
Nees said he’s also been impressed by Troy’s special teams, particularly it’s punt block unit. In the past four weeks, Troy has blocked three punts, all of which have been returned for touchdowns.
“They have blocked a huge amount of punts,” Nees said. “Their kicking game is outstanding.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong