By David Fong
PIQUA — At the time, it didn’t seem like a monumental play.
With the benefit of hindsight, however, it was a massive turning point.
On the second play of the second quarter in Friday’s thrilling Troy vs. Piqua football game at Alexander Stadium, Piqua star quarterback Micah Karn suffered an apparent leg injury, one that would keep him from returning on the night. In addition to serving as the Indians’ quarterback, Karn is the Indians’ kicker and punter.
Later in the quarter — with just 15 seconds remaining in the half — Piqua running Jerrell Lewis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, putting the Indians up 6-0. With Karn unavailable to kick, the Indians went for the 2-point conversion.
Back-up quarterback Blaine Ouhl threw a pass to Lewis near the end zone, but Trojan cornerback Kobe Feltner came up with a jarring hit that stopped Lewis less than a foot from the goal line, forcing the Indians to settle for a 6-0 lead going into halftime.
At the time, it didn’t seem like that one point would come into play, considering Troy’s offense came into the contest averaging better than 34 points per game. But Piqua’s defense was lights out Friday, holding Troy scoreless until quarterback Brayden Siler hooked up with Shane Shoop on a 41-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. Siler then booted the extra point, giving the Trojans the 7-6 win.
Had Karn been available to kick the extra point, or had Feltner not made the play on the 2-point conversion, Friday’s game easily could have had a much different outcome.
“Kobe made a heck of a play,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “Lewis is a big guy (6-foot-1, 242 pounds), but Kobe (5-8, 173) was willing to come up and make the hit. Obviously we had no idea of knowing it at the time, but that ended up being a huge play in a game that was decided by one point.”
The Catch, Part II
Shoop’s game-winning touchdown catch — it looked like he would be tackled by Ouhl at the 15, but he spun out of the tackle, planted one hand to regain his balance, then stood up and rumbled in for the score — will forever live in rivalry lore.
Before Shoop’s catch, however, there was “the catch before The Catch.”
Shoop’s heroics almost never happened because, earlier in the drive, the Trojans faced fourth-and-4 at their own 47 with less than 5 minutes to play. Had Piqua got the stop there, the Indians likely would have been able to run out the clock for the victory. That didn’t happen, however, because Siler found senior receiver Caillou Monroe open on the sideline for a 9-yard gain, giving the Trojans a critical first down.
Two plays later, Siler hooked up with Shoop to put the Trojans ahead.
“That was a great play by Brayden and Caillou,” Burgbacher said. “In a pressure situation, Brayden made a nice throw and Caillou made a nice catch. If we don’t convert that first down, we may not get another chance with the ball. So that was another huge play on a night full of huge plays.”
Officially, Troy running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop finished the game with 17 carries for 142 yards, much of which came on a 54-yard run at the end of the first half in which he nearly scored but was pushed out of bounds at the Indian 10, and late in the game when the Trojans were running out the clock.
For the season, Culp-Bishop now has 216 carries for 1,881 yards with at least one playoff game remaining. If he can pick up 119 yards in the playoffs, he’ll become just the third different running back in school history to rush for 2,000 yards or more in one season.
Ryan Brewer actually did it twice, rushing for 2,856 yards as a senior in 1998 and 2,336 yards as a junior. Bob Ferguson rushed for 2,089 yards in 1956.
With 1,881 yards so far this season, Culp-Bishop now has the fourth-best rushing total in school history. Friday, he passed Cody Boyd (1,853 yards in 2004) and Corey Brown (1,861 yards in 2007).
Although the Ohio High School Athletic Association won’t reveal official playoff pairings until Sunday, the website www.joeeitel.com — which tracks playoff computer point totals throughout the season — has Troy getting in the Division II, Region 8 playoffs as a No. 3 seed. That would mean Troy (9-1) would host Cincinnati Harrison (7-3) this coming Friday at Troy Memorial Stadium in a regional quarterfinal game.
This will be the third year in a row the Trojans have made the playoffs. The only other time Troy made the playoffs three years in a row was 1995-97.
As is always the case, there were a number of other events associated with the Troy-Piqua game.
Piqua won the annual blood drive between the two communities, as both cities combined for a record-setting amount of blood donated.
One player from each team was honored by the Great American Rivalry Series as the top scholar athlete on his respective team. Troy’s honoree was Zach Niswonger, while Piqua’s was Kraig Hemmert. One former player from each team also was inducted into the Great American Rivalry Series Hall of Fame. Troy’s inductee was Bond Howery, while Piqua’s was Tyler Haines.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong