Tomorrow night the Troy Trojans will make the short trip north on I-75 to take on the Piqua Indians in the most-played rivalry in Ohio high school football. This will be the 128th matchup between the two teams; Troy holds a 62-59-6 advantage in the series.
The first Troy-Piqua game I attended was in 1992, as a sophomore in high school. Troy Memorial Stadium was jammed well beyond its 10,000-seat capacity that night, as spectators filled the bleachers and also stood several rows deep around the fences surrounding the field (I've seen numbers estimated the crowd that night as 14,000 to 17,000). Both teams came into that game undefeated and state-ranked in Division I. The Trojans got the win that night, 22-7. That was, however, the only time Troy beat Piqua while I was in high school.
I've been to every Troy-Piqua game since then. I've seen 21 of 'em; Troy is 12-9 in those games, and has outscored Piqua 453-331. Troy's riding a five-game winning streak that began in 2007. I turned 30 in 2007, and I've made it halfway through my 30s without seeing a Trojan loss to the Indians. Not too shabby.
Troy and Piqua actually played twice in 1992. After the regular season matchup, they ended up meeting again several weeks later in the state playoffs. Another big crowd came to see them play again, this time at Dayton's Welcome Stadium. My dad took me and my friends Patrick and Jason down for the game. Unfortunately, the Trojans came up short in that one, losing 20-6.
I got my driver's license in the summer of 1993, so that fall I made my first trip to Piqua for the game, along with my friend Patrick. At the time, Piqua played at Wertz Stadium downtown (Alexander Stadium, next to the high school, opened in 2001; Troy played there for the first time in 2002, a 9-6 loss), which didn't have a parking lot. Luckily, my parents had some friends who lived just a couple of blocks from the stadium, so I parked in their driveway and we walked over. I think we got there around 4:30, which wasn't early enough for us to get a seat in the small bleachers offered as the stadium's visitors' side. Patrick and I ended up standing along the fence on the south side of the field. Piqua won that game on the last play, 16-15, the infamous "phantom facemask" game, and I was furious. I'm still a little mad about it.
In 1996, I was a sophomore at Wright State University. I brought my roommate Matt along to the game. He was a graduate of Canton McKinley, a participant in another prominent Ohio high school football rivalry. I think he was impressed with the crowd and the atmosphere, but not so much with the game. Troy had a dominant team that year, including a sophomore halfback named Ryan Brewer who would go on to become a Troy legend, and they destroyed the Indians 48-0.
The 2003 game was suspended in the first quarter due to lightning and picked up again on Saturday evening. That made for a crazy weekend for me. I was living in Bowling Green, and my girlfriend (now wife) Brandi lived in Stow, Ohio, near Akron. I drove from Bowling Green to Troy on Friday, then, after the game was suspended, drove to Stow. Brandi and I went to Columbus the next morning to attend the Ohio State-Northwestern (coached at the time by THS alumnus Randy Walker) at noon, then back to Troy for the rest of the Troy-Piqua game that night. On Sunday we drove back to Stow, and early on Monday morning I drove to Toledo, where I worked. Oh, and Troy lost that game, 10-3.
2007 brought one of the most incredible games in the series, one of the best games I've seen, and one of the most amazing performances by a Trojan not named Brewer. Halfback Corey Brown rushed for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns that night, and Troy scored in the final minute and went for the two-point conversion (and almost didn't make it--Tyler Wright was almost sacked before delivering the pass to Ben McGillvary) to win 36-35. Piqua would make the playoffs that year and finish 8-4; Troy, on the other hand, ended their season at 4-6.
That was the game that started Troy's current five-game winning streak, and really, it was the last time the game was close. The Trojans have won each game since by at least two touchdowns, and shut the Indians out in 2009. The 2007 season was also, I think, the last time that Piqua made the playoffs. Troy has been in the playoffs each of the last two seasons, a streak that will come to an end this year.
I was at the 2010 game at Alexander Stadium in Piqua, but in a rare occurrence, I wasn't completely focused on the action on the field. The Reds were playing in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at the same time, and I was trying to keep up with that game as well. Whenever there was a break in the game, I was checking my phone for the score of the Reds game. The Trojans won that night 27-14; unfortunately, the Reds went down 7-4 to the Phillies on their way to being swept out of the playoffs.
Both teams enter this game at 4-5 on the season (and 2-2 in the GWOC North), so it's hard to know what to expect. Both have struggled on offense, with Piqua being shut out three times already (compared to Troy's once). I know the Trojans boast a stout defense; I'm not sure about Piqua's--they've given up some pretty large point totals, albeit to some pretty good teams--but they're generally solid defensively. I'd imagine this will be a low-scoring affair, but really, you just never know about this one. Whatever happens, hopefully the Trojans will come out on top. I'm taking the day off work, so you can rest assured that, by the time the 7:30 kickoff rolls around, I'll have my game face on.