By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — Bill Nees must feel a little like Romeo visiting the apothecary.
Much like the eponymous character in Act 5, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the Piqua football coach will have to pick his poison when defending the Troy football team’s offense tonight at Alexander Stadium in the 132nd meeting between the two schools.
This may be the most well-balanced offense Troy (8-1, 4-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division) has had since Nees became the head coach at Piqua (7-2, 4-0 in the American North) in 1992.
“They can run the ball and they can throw the ball,” Nees said. “And they have a quarterback who can run or throw the ball. They can beat you a lot of different ways. We have to be ready for anything.”
The Trojans are averaging 405.7 yards in total offense per game (second out of 20 teams in the GWOC) and 33.1 points per game (sixth in the GWOC). Troy has shown the ability to get it down on the ground, averaging 242.1 yards per game (seventh in the GWOC), and the air, averaging 163.6 yards per game (seventh in the GWOC).
Pulling the trigger in Troy’s explosive offense is senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica, a three-year starter. He’s completed 87 of 153 passes for 1,413 touchdowns, along with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Kotwica also has carried the ball 128 times for 671 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They’ve got an experienced quarterback who makes good decisions,” Nees said. “You have to be aware of him at all times, because he can throw it or pull it down and run it.”
Senior tailback Josh Browder has had a breakout season for the Trojans. He’s second in the GWOC in rushing with 140 carries for 1,124 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also has 15 receptions for 292 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“Their running back is explosive,” Nees said. “He can get into the secondary quickly.”
Browder is Troy’s leading receiver, but far from the only option. Senior receiver Zion Taylor has 15 catches for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Spencer Klopfenstein has 14 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown, senior receiver Hayden Jackson has 13 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns and junior receiver Matt McGillivary has nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’ve got three excellent perimeter receivers and a very physical tight end/h-back,” Nees said.
Clearing the way for the Trojan offense are senior tackles Travis Hall and Dylan Sedam, junior guards Kameron Block and Drew Smith and junior center Rase Darrow.
“They’ve got a big, physical offensive line,” Nees said. “They’ve got a very good offensive line.”
The Indians will counter with one of the top offenses in the GWOC. Piqua is giving up just 223.6 yards (third in the GWOC) and 14.3 points (third in the GWOC) per game.
“Their defense is a typical Bill Nees defense,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “They are going to run a 4-4, cover 3 defense. They’ll also play a little big of man.”
Piqua’s defensive line is anchored by massive senior defensive tackles Tristen Cox (6-foot-4, 308 pounds) and Josh Potter (6-2, 326). Cox has received several Division I college scholarship offers, while senior defensive end Nathan Monnin already has committed to Kent State University.
The Indians are led at linebacker by junior Ben Schmiesing, who already is being looked at by a number of Big Ten schools. He’s recorded 59 tackles this season, along with two sacks and four interceptions, two of which he’s returned for touchdowns.
“Those four big dudes they’ve got up front play the well and they can rush the passer,” Burgbacher said. “Then they’ve got four great athletes at linebacker. They want to clog the middle and spill things to the outside — and boom, someone is waiting there for you. Schmiesing is a great player. He tackles well. If he gets hold of a ballcarrier, nine times out of 10, he is coming down. He does a nice job on the edge.”
Roaming the secondary for the Indians is senior safety Dylan Cole, who leads the team in tackles with 76. He’s also returned an interception for a touchdown.
“Cole is one of the best free safeties we’ve seen,” Burgbacher said. “He sees and reads the offense really well.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong