I’ll never forget the first time I fell in love.
It was a night that began much like most other nights for me in high school — with my best friend Eric Hughes picking me up at my house in his parents’ metallic green Buick. Since I didn’t have a car, I was reliant on him to get me wherever I needed to go.
This night, however, was special.
As we hurtled up County Road 25-A — Hughes was known for driving at a high rate of speed wherever we needed to go (still is, I suppose) — toward Piqua’s old Wertz Stadium, we had no idea what was about to transpire.
It was a warm September night in 1991 and I was a senior at Troy High School. The Troy and Piqua football teams — both undefeated at the time — were about to play for the 106th time. Although we got to the stadium several hours before kickoff, the stands on both sides of the field were near capacity.
By the time the game finally started at 7:30 p.m. — nearly two hours after we had arrived — fans from both sides were in full throat. The two teams battled back and forth, with Piqua eventually pulling out a 24-6 victory.
Although I had gone to the game hoping for a Troy victory, something special happened that night. I definitely wanted Troy to win that night, figuring it might be the last time I saw a Troy-Piqua game before I left for college. I figured that night would bring an end to my involvement with one of the most storied high school football rivalries in Ohio’s history.
I figured once I left for college, it was on to bigger and better things.
A funny thing happened on my way to indifference, however. Surrounded by my classmates — and somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 other screaming fans — I realized this was more than just a football game.
That night, I fell in love with the rivalry. Growing up in Troy, I had attended other match-ups between the Trojans and Indians before, but this night was special. I knew, deep down, I would never miss another Troy-Piqua game.
And to this day, more than two decades later, I have not.
That night, Ohio’s most-played high school football rivalry become my passion. Actually, the word “passion” may not be enough. To those who know me best, the word “obsession” would probably be more fitting. I have spent my entire adult life following the rivalry, studying both sides … learning about the great players, coaches and moments.
I’ve written hundreds of stories and thousands of inches of copy from both sides regarding the game. For many years, I’ve considered myself “the guy who wrote the book on the Troy-Piqua rivalry” … in a figurative sense.
Now I can say I’m the guy who wrote the book on the Troy-Piqua rivalry in the literal — and literary — sense.
In January of 2014, I was approached by the good people at History Press — a national publisher that specializes in history books with a local feel — to write a book about the history of the Troy-Piqua rivalry.
For me, it truly was the chance to fulfill a dream I’ve been carrying around with my since high school. Not only would I have the opportunity to write a book, but I would have a chance to write about a subject as near to my heart as any other.
I felt like the local mechanic getting called in to work on a Ferrari or the local housepainter getting asked to touch up the Sistine Chapel. This was a chance to write my magnum opus to the greatest rivalry in all of sport.
Monday, that dream will come alive in print, as my book, “Ohio’s Troy vs. Piqua Football Rivalry: The Battle on the Miami,” will officially be released. It will be available both locally and online. I have book signings and meet-the-author nights set up at both the Troy-Miami County Public Library and Jay and Mary’s Book Center in Troy.
Is this really happening? To this day — tens of thousands of carefully chosen words written in my book later — this is still happening. It still seems like a dream to me.
A dream come true, that is.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong