We have reached the end of the line. Week 10 of the High School Football season has come and gone. As a result, the first season of the High School Fan Experience is complete. What a joyous ride it has been, the first of hopefully many more to come!
To be honest, the final game of the season was the only week of 2017 that I was undecided about going into the season. I was considering going to Elder at LaSalle, Milford at West Clermont, or maybe Fairfield at Middletown. However, I was told during the season about a fantastic and intense rivalry north of Dayton, and the conversation piqued my interest. Having a natural curiosity, I accepted the suggestion, and decided Troy High School would be the final game for our maiden season of the High School Fan Experience.
Little did I know that the final High School Fan Experience of the season would be the most historically significant I would be a part of all year.
For the finale of the 2017 season, I traveled north to the home of the most frequently played high school football rivalry in the state of Ohio. Troy High School was the sight of the 2017 edition of the Piqua v. Troy rivalry. The annual meeting between Troy and Piqua has been played every year since 1899, including twice a year at times early in the 1900’s. Going into the 133rd meeting between the two schools, both Troy and Piqua were in a position to potentially make the playoffs with a victory.
Surprisingly though, the playoffs were only the beginning of the stakes involved in the outcome of this game. Troy had already clinched at least a share of a Greater Western Ohio Conference Championship in the American North Division and could win it outright with a victory over Piqua. Piqua, on the other hand, could split the Title with Troy if they were to win over their rivals. As for the rivalry itself, the matchup going into the game was dead even, with both Piqua and Troy having won 63 games all-time against each other with 6 ties. The winner would claim the ultimate bragging rights, even if only for a year, as having the lead in the long standing rivalry.
During the drive up to Troy, I knew the weather was going to make things very interesting; The forecast was for rain, wind, and the temperature was to plummet throughout the evening. On cue, as soon as I entered the town of Troy, the rain began to fall. What started as a light sprinkle would eventually transition into a steady rain that would persist all night long.
Through thick and thin, with rain and wind pelting my coat, I was about to bear witness to a historic football game between the Piqua Indians and the Troy Trojans!
For those of you who tailgated in the mess that was the cold rain of Friday night, you have my respect. While the amount of tailgating was certainly muted due to the weather, I was still expecting a large number of tailgaters for the big rivalry game. My expectation was met and then some.
With puddles growing into small ponds in the parking lots, tailgaters began arriving around 5:30 for the 7pm kickoff. Tents were already assembled several hours before the game, and more began to pop up as game time approached. Along with tents, the hatches on SUVs were utilized to protect food and supplies from the rain. Nobody was going to let the troublesome fall weather deter their pregame festivities.
While grills were not feasible considering the conditions, the Troy and Piqua fans came prepared to tailgate. Crock pots and coolers were prevalent, even if the usual cornhole boards and stereos were not. What can I say except the dedication of the fans for both Piqua and Troy speaks for itself through the perseverance of the tailgaters.
Troy Memorial Stadium was where Piqua and Troy would meet to finish the 2017 season. Dating back to 1947, the stadium can hold more than 10,000 people, featuring equally sized blocks of seats along both sidelines. The natural grass field was in good condition at the start of the game, but predictably would become muddy and treacherous as the rain continued to fall.
The east stands are designated the home side of the stadium, and thus housed most of the stadiums amenities. Multiple bathrooms, a concession stand, and a Troy Spirit Wear Store could be found under the home bleachers. Choices in concessions included fresh popped popcorn, Little Caesar’s Pizza slices, Hot Dogs and Trojan Dogs, and Chik-Fil-A. It will not come as a shock that hot chocolate and coffee were big sellers that night.
On the west side of the stadium were the visiting fans. While there were fewer amenities under the west stands, there was still a second concession stand as well as more bathrooms. For the second time in 2017, I saw a coaches box on both sidelines, and that included a small coaches box on the visitor’s side of the stadium.
The stadium could not have been a more stoic location for such an important football game. The age of the stadium was apparent, but instead of a feeling of being inside an old facility, you felt as though you were surrounded by history as you walked within the stadium. There is no question that the magnitude of the rivalry was only enhanced by being played within Troy Memorial Stadium.
I would like to include the marching bands in my article, even though they were not heavily featured due to the rain. Both Troy and Piqua had their bands present, however both bands left the stadium following halftime. The Troy High School Marching Band did perform the national anthem prior to kickoff, and reassembled to perform some of their songs, albeit without any marching, during halftime. The Piqua Marching Band, while they were at the game, set up in the visiting stands next to the Piqua students. The sound from both the Troy and Piqua bands was good, and I do wish the rain had not been falling so we could have heard more of what they had to play. Nevertheless, the fact that both bands were there for such an important game, no matter the weather, and did play throughout the first half is admirable.
October 27, 2017 was not an evening for the faint of heart if you were a fan of any age. If you were at the game because you were volunteering or were a parent of a player, then I can understand why you would attend the game in that weather. If you were just a fan of either Piqua or Troy, then your dedication to rooting for your team is undeniable, and you will probably still be feeling cold from that game until Thanksgiving.
Troy fans outnumbered Piqua fans, but the cheers produced seemed pretty even from both sides. Piqua fans came prepared to be loud, with cowbells in hand and powerful voices at their disposal. Meanwhile, the Troy fans came ready to yell as though their lives depended on it, and boy did they do just that.
Most of the parent volunteers were working under the stands, so many of them were fortunate enough to be out of the way of the rainy weather. Volunteers were jammed packed working at the registers and behind the scenes in the concession stands. Some were lucky enough to work the movie theatre sized popcorn machine, which I can tell you from personal experience is yes, dangerous because of the heat and oil involved, but a ton of fun to be around for the smell of the popcorn alone.
Some of the parents, however, were not as fortunate to stay out of the elements. Several were in charge of working the admission gates. While the turnstiles were pretty much undercover, the wind did drive a good amount of rain into the entryway, creating the need for ticket takers to bundle up. However, you would never know that any of them were feeling the cold, as all of the ticket takers were smiling and welcoming, well aware of the game that we were in store for.
Despite the rain and cold, students from both Troy and Piqua showed up in droves to cheer on their team. While most of the Troy students had attempted to dress in white, many of the Piqua students had come to the game dressed in red. The color contrast led to an interesting visual, as the Troy players were clad in their home silver jerseys, while the Piqua players were dressed in their white jerseys.
These were some enthusiastic students at Troy Memorial Stadium that night; I would expect nothing less for a rivalry game with as much history as Piqua/Troy has. From opening kickoff, every student was engaged in the play on the field with a focus that was rarely matched at any game I have seen in 2017. Cheers were over the top, while gasps were frequent over a fumbled ball or a slip in the mud.
By the fourth quarter, only a couple rows of Troy students remained, while the Piqua student section was now empty. These students were the loudest of them all that night, screaming in support all the way to the end of the game, if for no other reason than to keep themselves warm. I commend each and every one of the students on both sides that braved the rain and cold to attend the Piqua/Troy game. Many of you were not as well bundled up as I was, yet you managed to make sure your voice was heard throughout the stadium, and most of the time you were successful in creating the roar you were hoping for. I do hope you all got some hot chocolate at some point during or after the game to warm up.
With temperatures dropping quickly, winds picking up, and a steady rain falling from well before kickoff until late into the night, an ugly football game was to be expected between the traditional rivals in the Piqua Indians and the Troy Trojans.
Piqua would receive the opening kickoff, but not be able to move the ball well on offense. After a punt to Troy, Piqua quickly regained possession after the first of many fumbles by both sides on the wet night. However, Piqua once again failed to do much on offense, resulting in another punt. As we would see, Piqua would struggle the entire night to get anything going offensively.
Eventually, early in the second quarter, Troy punched the ball into the endzone, although the extra point would be no good. Impressive running by Jaydon Culp-Bishop would be paramount for the Trojan offense throughout the game. Culp-Bishop went into the game as the fourth most prolific running back in the GWOC in 2017, and will look to improve further in 2018.
By halftime, Troy had taken a 12-0 lead over Piqua. Piqua had looked overmatched, having been unable to get any momentum going on offense. The Indians did not lose hope, and they continued to fight through the rain and mud as the second half began.
The running ability of Jaydon Culp-Bishop would allow Troy to continue to pull away in the second half. Only a forced fumble that the Piqua defense returned for a touchdown would keep the Indians from being shut out. In the end, through all the intolerable wet weather, the Troy Trojans defeated the Piqua Indians 32-6.
It was a cold, rainy, and windy night in Troy, Ohio that Friday. My umbrella failed, my coat soaked through, my clothes were drenched, and my soul was chilled to the bone by the end of that night. I saw a football game that would be considered ugly on any other night between any other set of teams in the state.
And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing about the entire event.
The passion for both Piqua and Troy was evident from the moment I entered the parking lot. The love for the teams by their fans only enhanced the significance of the rivalry in my eyes. They could have all stayed home and avoided the bone chilling rain, but both Troy and Piqua were well represented in the stands by a group of people who simply refused to allow some bad weather to affect how they would celebrate the 133rd meeting between the two schools. I can only imagine what the 134th game between Piqua and Troy will be like in 2018, and I cannot wait to see it take place at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium.
Troy High School has a lot to be proud of after staging such a memorable game. The elements only added to the history of the rivalry, with the game going down as one of the more memorable matchups between Piqua and Troy. All of the players will have something to tell their children one day, about how they were a part of a great rivalry and fought through a terrible rain to play for the love of the game.
At the end of the day, Troy’s victory ensured they would be taking home the Battle on the Miami Traditions Trophy for the second consecutive year. Piqua had claimed the trophy every year between 2012 and 2015, but now Troy had the start of a new winning streak to brag about in the series. On top of everything else, Troy now holds the edge in the rivalry, now holding the all-time lead in the series 63-62-6.
It was an honor to have been a part of such a significant rivalry in the state of Ohio. High School Football is sewn deeply into the fabric of Ohio culture, and the Piqua/Troy rivalry beautifully puts on display the very cultural significance I have been praising throughout the entire High School Football season. I do not believe I could have found a more special game to have as a finale for the 2017 High School Fan Experience.
While Piqua/Troy was the last stop for the High School Fan Experience for now, the fun is just beginning! Playoff football is right around the corner, and while I will be unable to cover the experience of the first two rounds of the regional playoffs, I do intend on recapping the entire Fan Experience from 2017. In addition, I plan to attend a Regional Final in two weeks, one that I hope features a team that I was able to experience up close and personal this season. Get ready, everyone, because the excitement of Playoff High School Football is about to begin!