By David Fong
PIQUA — Shane Shoop was looking for redemption in forgiveness.
On a cold, rainy night in Piqua’s Alexander Stadium, the Troy football team’s senior receiver found both floating through the air and landing on his hands.
“Last week was the hardest thing ever,” Shoop said of Week 9’s game against Greenville, when he had to sit out the game due to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules after an altercation late in Week 8 against Sidney. “My heart was aching watching my brothers out there. It hurt more than I thought it would. I had to redeem myself. I let my brothers down and I had to make it up to them.”
Shoop did all of that and more late in Troy’s game against rival Piqua in the 134th meeting between the two teams when, with less than four minutes to play and Troy trailing 6-0, Shoop hauled in a pass from Troy quarterback Brayden Siler at the 10-yard line, broke a tackle at the 5 and rumbled into the end zone, putting the Trojans up 7-6 following Siler’s extra point.
From there, Troy’s defense got one final stop to preserve the victory. With the win, Troy improved to 9-1 (5-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division), while Piqua fell to 6-4 (3-2). Troy also wrapped up its third outright GWOC North title in a row, will host a home playoff game next week and now leads the all-time series between the two teams, 65-63-6. Troy’s playoff opponent will be announced Sunday.
With both Troy and Piqua moving to the Miami Valley League next year, Troy is the final GWOC North champion in history.
“It wasn’t easy,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “Our kids fought and they battled … but that’s what I love about this team. They never quit. When we were in the lockerroom down 6-0 at halftime, our kids weren’t discouraged. This is exactly the type of game you expect when Troy and Piqua play.”
On a night in which Troy’s offense struggled all night against a hard-hitting Piqua defense, it was the perfect play call at the perfect time for the Trojans.
“We try to run that home run play at least once every game,” Siler said. “When I looked over at him before the play, I thought, ‘I think Shane is going to get open on this play.’ I saw he was wide open and just knew I had to get it to him. He made a great play and got into the end zone.”
The touchdown was set up by Troy’s defense, which was outstanding all night. Midway through the fourth quarter, Piqua — which played most of the game without star quarterback Micah Karn, who suffered an apparent leg injury in the second quarter — had driven to the Troy 33 when the Indians coughed up the ball. Sophomore safety Lucas Henderson — who came into the game late when starter Jacob Shoop was injured, pounced on it at the Trojan 28. Seven plays later, Siler hooked up with Shoop for the game-winner.
“I just saw the ball come and I knew I had to get it,” Henderson said. “I had to do it for my team. When (Shoop) got injured and I had to go in, my mind kind of went blank. I knew I just had to come in and do what I could to help the team.”
Even after Troy scored, the Trojans needed one more stop from its defense.
A 36-yard run by Matt Blankenship gave the Indians the ball at the Troy 28 with a little more than two minutes to play. Two plays later, Piqua faced third-and-5. The Indians ran Makeegan Kuhn on a pitch to the right side of the field, where Trojan linebacker Sam Jackson was waiting. Jackson hit Kuhn for a 2-yard loss. On the next play, Piqua fumbled on the snap, giving Troy the ball back and allowing the Trojans to run out the clock.
“I was actually very surprised they came to my side,” Jackson said. “I would have thought they would have learned better throughout the night, but they just kept coming may way. I knew I had to get the stop. This feels great to beat these guys. We’ve worked hard all season to get to this point and it feels great to finish off the game this way.”
For roughly 44 minutes, it looked like Piqua was going to pull off a monumental upset. The Indians scored with just second to play in the first half on Jerrell Lewis’ 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down. From there, it’s defense was able to keep Troy in check almost the entire night.
In the end, however, the night belonged to Shoop.
“This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve never felt anything like this before. I knew I owed it to my brothers.”
With redemption floating into his arms from the heavens above.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong.