By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — Some rivalries never die.
How else can one possibly explain two dozen former high school football players — some well past their prime — risking life and limb (literally) to battle it out one more time on the gridiron?
Friday night, as a part of the Troy Strawberry Festival, former Troy and Piqua high school football players battled it out one more time in a flag football game at Troy Memorial Stadium. Troy would end up winning the game 18-9 — but the victory did not come without costs to both sides.
According to unofficial reports, one Troy player suffered a broken ankle, one suffered a broken finger and a Piqua player suffered a broken forearm.
All part of the price one pays to participate in one of the greatest rivalries in high school football.
Contrary to popular belief — and numerous T-shirt slogans — the Troy-Piqua football rivalry is not the oldest in the state of Ohio. No two Ohio high school football teams have ever played more football games than Troy and Piqua, however.
The two teams first played in 1899 — two years after Troy’s football program began in 1897. That first year, the two teams played twice, with Troy winning both games, 17-0 and 7-5. Since the rivalry began, the two teams have played a total of 129 times, with Troy holding the narrowest of leads in the series, 62-61-6.
Much like so many other things between the two towns, however, even the overall series record is in dispute. Many historians claim the two teams actually have only met 128 times and that one of those early meetings — a Troy victory — actually came in a contest that was held between teams comprised of high school players, but by teams made up of men from the two towns. Both schools, however, recognize 129 as the total number of games played between the two teams.
Injuries aside, Friday’s flag football game between the two teams was generally a light-hearted affair. That hasn’t always been the case, however. When the two teams met for the second time in 1899, a riot broke out amongst the 600 spectators when, with the game tied at 5-5, Troy scored a safety in the game’s final seconds to pull out the victory.
The rivalry may have reached its zenith in the 1990s, when Troy was coached by Steve Nolan — the winningest coach in school history — and Piqua was coached by Bill Nees, who likely will become the winningest coach in Piqua history this fall. During that decade, the two teams were the class of the now-defunct Greater Miami Valley Conference, and the annual meeting between the two teams frequently would decide the conference champion.
That decade also produced numerous Division I college football stars, such as Troy’s Ryan Brewer (University of South Carolina) and Kris Dielman (Indiana University) and Piqua’s Matt Finkes (Ohio State) and Antwon Jones (Notre Dame). Both Dielman and Finkes would go on to play in the NFL, as well.
In 1992, an estimated 14,000 spectators shoehorned their way into Troy Memorial Stadium as both teams came into the game ranked in the top 10 of the Division I Associated Press poll. Troy would win that game 22-7 on a game that was sealed when Trojan linebacker Chad Dillow returned an interception for a touchdown.
Piqua would get its revenge later that year, however, when the Trojans and Indians met again in the Division I regional championship game at Welcome Stadium and the Indians knocked off the Trojans 20-7 to earn a spot in the state semifinals.
That decade also would produce the only overtime meeting in the history of the rivalry in 1995, when Troy kicker Nick Trostle booted a field goal in OT to give the Trojans a 17-14 victory.
Many regard the 2007 meeting between the two teams as one of the greatest games not only in rivalry history, but in high school football history. After a heavily-favored Piqua team took a 35-28 lead late in the game, Troy marched the length of the field behind tailback Corey Brown, who finished the game with 42 carries for 324 rushing yards. After Brown’s touchdown run brought the Trojans to within one point, 35-34 with less than a minute to play, Nolan elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win.
With a Piqua defender draped all over him, Troy quarterback Tyler Wright completed a pass to Benson McGillvary in the endzone, giving the Trojans the 36-35 victory.
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong