Friday, October 23, 2009

Troy 26 Piqua 0

So. In this shot of the visitors' side of Troy Memorial Stadium at kickoff of tonight's annual Troy-Piqua game, we see how the town of Piqua supports its team when it is struggling. That is, by far, the weakest turnout I've seen from either side in this normally heated rivalry. Normally this game requires an early arrival to ensure you can even get a seat in Troy's 10,000-seat stadium; tonight, as you can see, you could have waltzed in right at kickoff and found yourself a prime spot on the Piqua side. Now, to be fair, the Troy side was by no means full, but I can't imagine it looked anything like this from the opposite side.

And I can't understand it. This was my 19th consecutive Troy-Piqua game. I've seen games where both teams were powerhouses, where both teams were pedestrian, where both teams were weak, and where one team had a decided advantage over the other. I've seen scintillating games that went down to the wire, I've seen blowouts by each side, and I've seen everything in between. I've left the stadium after the final gun everywhere from exhilarated to despondent. I have never been bored by a Troy-Piqua game, never been sorry that I attended. I can't imagine missing one. Even when the game ends up playing out more or less like you'd expect, like this one did, you just never know going in. Yes, Piqua is struggling this year. Still, if that's your team, knowing the history of this game, why wouldn't you go? Why not go cheer your face off and lend whatever modicum of support the team may gain from your presence and hope to see them do the improbable and gain a victory over their chief rival? Wouldn't that be worth the 7-mile drive and the $6 entry fee?

Well, at any rate, the Piqua fans tonight stayed away in droves, and I suppose those that did so weren't disappointed as they got the outcome they expected as the Trojans wore down the Indians and came away with the shutout victory. I had a feeling going in that Troy's chances of pitching a shutout were fairly high, knowing that defense is their forte and that Piqua's offense has struggled (at least since their season-opening 84-point outing over Ponitz Tech, a first-year Division VI program. Who scheduled that game?). Piqua's offense actually showed a flash here and there that maybe they were ready to put something together, but each time Troy's defense tightened the clamps and shut them down. Xavier Ford was a monster on the D-line, spending most of the night in the Indian backfield, and Kyle Terando and Chad Merkert in the secondary took care of things on the other end. There were plenty more outstanding performances, but those were the ones that stood out.

Offensively, this game rested on the shoulders of senior fullback Chris Basil (13 carries, 110 yards, TD) sophomore halfback Marcus Foster (19 carries, 102 yards, TD, plus a receiving TD). Again, this was a night when everyone contributed, but those guys were clearly the stars, as the running backs tend to be for the Trojans. The rushing attack really let the offense wear Piqua's defense down, as the score was just 13-0 going into the fourth quarter. That last quarter really saw the Trojans put the game away as they just pounded on Piqua's defenders - especially as Piqua's offense couldn't hold onto the ball and keep them off the field to rest.

One thing I have to say...although it was cool for the rivalry to get some exposure from the U.S. Marines Great American Rivalry Series, but I'm really not in favor, for a game like this, of keeping the kids on the field for all these postgame trophy presentations and such. Or, at the very least, let the losing team get off the field. Let the kids get into the locker room and start licking their wounds without rubbing the other team's victory in their faces. And I say that as a fan of the winning team.

However, the important part of the win is that Troy now takes the lead in Ohio's most-played rivalry. After 125 meetings, the record now stands at 60-59-6 in favor of the Trojans. Troy finishes the regular season next week with a game at the 4-5 Sidney Yellow Jackets. It's hard to believe that Week 10 has rolled around so quickly. However, there is still some slim hope that the Trojans will extend their season beyond ten games. Should they come out on top next Friday, depending on the outcome of a few other games, they may yet squeak into the playoffs. It's not likely, but it's not impossible either. So here's hoping.

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