PIQUA — Stunning. Exciting. Frustrating. Confusing. Wet. Wild.
Of all the words to describe the final 2:27 of Friday’s playoff game, Piqua football coach Bill Nees settled on one.
“Disappointing,” he said. “That’s probably a good word for it.”
Ca‘Ron Coleman’s 2-yard touchdown run and Brady Ouhl’s two-point pass to Jerell Lewis tied the score at 22-22 with 2:27 to play, and Anderson failed to convert a fourth-and-4 on its own 26-yard line on the ensuing possession, setting Piqua up in field goal range with less than two minutes to go. But Anderson picked off a pass and, four plays later, connected on a 48-yard touchdown pass with :28 on the clock to hand the Indians their first loss of the season, 29-22 Friday at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field, eliminating the Indians from postseason play.
Sixth-seeded Anderson (7-2) entered the game on a three-game winning streak, with its only two losses coming at the hands of two other undefeated teams, 7-0 Winton Woods and 6-0 Kings — and other than its 48-13 loss to Winton Woods, its lowest-scoring game was the 70-34 loss to Kings. All told, Anderson — which advances to face No. 2 Cincinnati La Salle in Week 10’s regional semifinal — entered the night averaging 34.5 points per game.
No. 3 Piqua (7-1), meanwhile, had only given up 38 points all season long, including shutout victories over Greenville, Stebbins and Sidney, as well as its 42-7 victory over Harrison in the second round of the playoffs in Week 8.
But in the end, it all came down to who made the final mistake.
Anderson saw two touchdown plays called back by penalties in the second half — ending up with 10 penalties for 83 yards in the game — and fumbled away another apparent touchdown on the game’s opening possession. But Piqua was penalized 12 times for 106 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call on a play that would have given the Indians a first-and-goal on the Anderson 6 in the game’s final two minutes — and two plays later, Anderson’s Brody Foley picked off a pass with 1:05 to play that led to Anderson’s game-winning score.
“We had a lot of opportunities, and I thought we played really well at times and had some big plays, but we did not have enough,” Nees said. “And then we made too many mistakes. When it came time for us to make some plays, we had great opportunities — and we made mistakes.”
In the first half, Anderson’s offense had its way with Piqua’s vaunted defense, with quarterback Jackson Kuhn going 15 for 17 for 179 yards and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Joey Faulkner, as well as adding touchdown runs of 1 and 8 yards. Piqua’s Coleman added a 6-yard score, but Anderson led 20-7 at the break.
“We knew coming out that it was going to take us a while to get used to that (Anderson’s offense),” Nees said. “That kid was unbelievably accurate. We tightened things up into the boundary, and they chuck one over the top on us, but generally I thought we did a little better.
“It was just tough to get any pressure because he was catching the snap and throwing it, boom, boom, boom. He got himself out of some trouble, too. There were some times we had them on fourth down and weren’t able to get off the field — we get them in a fourth-and-17, and he runs for 17.1 yards.”
But Piqua’s defense shut down Anderson for the most part in the second half, and a 69-yard touchdown pass from Ouhl to Garrett Schrubb with 3:05 left in the third got the Indians to within one score at 20-14. The Indians then stuffed Anderson on fourth-and-goal and took over at their own 1-yard line, but a high snap on the next play gave Anderson a safety and allowed it to head into the fourth quarter leading 22-14.
Piqua retook possession at its own 42 with 5:00 to play, though, and took nine plays to go 58 yards, with Ouhl hitting older brother Blane Ouhl for a 16-yard gain to set the Indians up with a first-and-goal from the 2. Coleman powered his way into the end zone on the next play, and Ouhl hit Lewis over the middle to convert for two and tie the score at 22-22 with 2:27 to go.
“It was almost like we were frustrated because we’re used to making big plays, and we weren’t able to do that for a while,” Nees said. “And in the second half, I thought we were able to get things rolling a little bit. And our defense played resilient, too. It was incredible some of the stops we had down there. I was proud of their effort.”
Facing fourth-and-4 on its own 26, Anderson chose to go for it, and the Indians forced an incomplete pass to take possession with 1:51 to play.
“We’ve seen them do it. That’s the way they play football,” Nees said of Anderson’s decision to go for it. “It was not unusual. Sometimes it helps you, and sometimes it comes back to haunt you.”
Two plays later, Jasiah Medley broke a 24-yard to seemingly put Piqua on the 6 — but the unsportsmanlike conduct call backed the Indians up to the 21, and a false start backed them up five more yards. Forced into a passing situation, Foley picked off a pass along the sideline to give possession back to Anderson, and three plays later Kuhn escaped pressure by the Indians’ pass rush and flung a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jerrick McClanahan to put Anderson up 29-22 with only :28 to play.
An unsportsmanlike conduct call on the touchdown forced Anderson to kick off from its own 20, giving the Indians one last chance — but an incomplete pass by Piqua on fourth-and-3 from the Anderson 48 put and end to its chances.
Kuhn finished the game 40 for 57 for 429 yards and two scores and added 57 rushing yards and two more scores on 20 carries. Piqua, meanwhile had 338 yards of total offense, with Coleman leading the way with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries and Medley adding 64 yards on six carries. Ouhl was 8 for 20 for 119 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The loss ends Piqua’s postseason run, but it also gives the Indians a chance to schedule a regular season game in Week 10 if it chooses to, giving them a chance to end 2020 on a high note.