If you’re a boy growing up in Piqua more often than not your destiny involves a helmet, shoulder pads and annual clashes against rivals Troy to the south and Sidney to the north.
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Located in the cross hairs of Interstate 75 and U.S. Route 36 in Miami County, there hasn’t been a lot of turnover among Piqua High School football coaches of late. Those are good reasons for the program’s continual success and renown. Indians head coaches George Wertz (1925-50), Chuck Asher (1964-77), Steve Magoteaux (1984-91) and Bill Nees (1992-present) all have left long-lasting impressions on a program that first played rival Troy in 1899.
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The Indians’ greatest show on Friday nights initially was anchored around a bend in the Greater Miami River at Roosevelt Field, later renamed Wertz Stadium. Named after the beloved coach, he compiled an outstanding 165-63-21 overall record and multiple Miami Valley League championships.
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Play shifted to Alexander Stadium/Purk Field in 2001. A splendor that seats 8,200, the gem that’s anchored on the north side of town was home to the 2006 Division II state champions. It’s also a postseason regular site for playoff games.
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Nees is in his 27th season coaching the Indians. He overtook Wertz as the program’s all-time winningest coach a few seasons ago and enters this coming season with a 183-86 record. He’s the dean among GWOC coaches and in that span has helped groom some of the best football talent the program has produced.
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Here’s who we consider the all-time seven best football players at Piqua High School, the 10th in a continuing series. Have something to say about this alphabetical list? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location: Piqua, Miami County.
Affiliation: Greater Western Ohio Conference, American North.
Division: D-III, Region 12.
Coach: Bill Nees.
2017 season opener: Meadowdale at Welcome Stadium, Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m.; second game of a doubleheader.
1. Craig Clemons, RB/DB, 1968: An outstanding two-way player in the Miami Valley League, of which Piqua was a charter member. A shining star on otherwise lackluster University of Iowa teams from 1969-71. As a senior the Hawkeyes won just won game, but Clemons’ made a name for himself with a non-stop, hard-hitting motor. He excelled as a returner and knockout DB.
He was first team All-Big Ten and first team All-American as a Hawkeyes senior. The Bears were equally impressed, taking the 5-11, 195-pound safety in the first round (12th pick) of the 1972 NFL draft. He started for most of 1972-77 seasons with equally futile Bears teams and had nine career INTs. Inducted into the Iowa hall of fame in 2013.
2. Matt Finkes, OL/DL, 1993: At 6-3, 272 pounds, a massive football and wrestling presence who excelled in the defunct Greater Miami Valley Conference. First team All-Ohio DL as a senior and twice placed third in D-I state wrestling as a heavyweight.
Became an immediate freshman defensive end hit at Ohio State, playing for John Cooper and rotating with Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel. Had 59 tackles for a loss, second to Vrable’s 66 for most by a Buckeye.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. Played one season with Jets before an injury ended his pro career. Continues to be a high profile pregame radio analyst of OSU games. Also is the associate director of development for the OSU Wexner Medical Center.
3. Dave Gallagher, OL/DL, 1970: A big-time 6-4, 256-pound force for the Indians and coach Chuck Asher. Also excelled in basketball and track. Had some of his best football games against Ohio State, as Michigan’s consensus All-American and captain. A first-round pick (20th overall) of the Bears in 1974. Including Clemons, Piqua had two first-round NFL draft choices in three years.
Played defensive tackle with the Bears, Giants and Lions from 1974-79 with 39 starts, mostly at New York. A Giants teammate was running back Gordon Bell, a 1972 Troy High School grad.
Returned to Michigan during the offseasons and pursued a medical career. An orthopedic surgeon, started private practice at Richmond, Indiana, then joined Southern Indiana Orthopedics in 1990.
4. Quinn Pitcock, OL/DL, 2002: A defensive tackle beast at 6-3, 299 pounds. A junior standout on the 2000 team that lost to Olmstead Falls in the D-II state championship and All-Ohio as a senior. Still remains Piqua’s all-time leader in the discus (175 feet) and a near 60-foot shot putter. Another immediate hit at OSU under then-coach Jim Tressell. By his senior season he was a consensus All-American.
Taken in the third round by the Colts in the 2007 NFL draft, he made enough of a first-year impact to be projected as a starter for Indianapolis the next season. Instead, he unexpectedly retired before training camp. He was diagnosed with ADHD and video game addiction. Won an ArenaBowl championship in 2014 with the Arizona Rattlers. Now a successful relator.
5. David Rolf, TE/LB, 2008: At 6-4 and 228 pounds, was a menacing two-way factor as a junior on the 2006 team that beat Pickering Central to win the D-II state title. All-Ohio, as a senior had 117 tackles, including 28 for a loss and three INTs. Also had 30 catches at TE. A three-year starter in basketball, too.
Began collegiate career at Michigan State, playing in all 26 games over two seasons on special teams and at linebacker. Transferred to Utah for final two seasons, switching from defensive end to tight end. Brother Pete Rolf (2007 Piqua grad) is an honorable mention choice and played at Ball State and Weber State.
6. Brandon Saine, RB, 2007: A massive burner at 5-11 and about 210 pounds. Already accomplished in the backfield with 1,300 yards rushing as a junior and All-Ohio. Trumped that by surpassing 2,000 yards rushing as a senior. Named Ohio’s Mr. Football, he capped a breakout senior season with 226 yards rushing and three TDs in a 26-7 defeat of Pickerington Central to win the D-II state championship and complete a 13-2 season.
Still holds Piqua records for career rushing yards (4,359), single-season rushing yards (2,287), single-season scoring (38 TDs, 228 points) and career scoring (59 TDs, 354 points).
Did we mention speed? Set an all-divisions state record of 10.38 in the 100 meters as a junior. Swept the 100 (10.50) and 400 (46.88) at the state track meet that season but faded to seventh in the 200 after posting the fastest qualifying time (20.74) in an attempt to sweep the sprints. Also a national prep champion in the indoors 60, that would be the last time would run track after pulling up lame with a leg injury early in his senior season.
That combination of size and speed landed him at OSU, where he played on teams that won consecutive Big Ten titles from 2007-09. As a Buckeye gained 1,408 career rushing yards to go with 55 career catches (616 yards) and scored 17 TDs. Undrafted, he signed with the Packers and played for two NFL seasons as a backup in 2011-12.
Continues to serve Piqua youth through the Brandon Saine Family Scholarship program.
7. Kenny Thorpe, RB/DB, 1950: A blast from the long-ago past. A quick-strike backfield presence who produced long TD runs. First team All-MVL and honorable mention All-Ohio.
Soared 23 feet, 10 and one-eighth inches in the long jump, a school record that still stands. That landed him in the U.S. Olympic trials in 1952 for the Helsinki Games. Voted Piqua’s athletic MVP as a senior. Inducted into the Piqua athletic hall of fame in 1996.
Honorable mention: Nic Black, DE, 1998; Phil Collier, DB, 2007; Tristen Cox, DL, 2017; Scott Foster, RB/DB, 2001; Bryant Haines, TE/LB, 2004; Tyler Haines, QB/LB, 2002; Justin Hemm, QB, 2008; Joey Hudson, LB, 2005; Kevin Johns, QB, 1994; Antwon Jones, DL, 1995; Lance Karn, QB, 1995; Josh Landis, LB, 2001; Tom Lyman, RB/DE, 1965;
Bryan Magoteaux, RB/DB, 1996; Devin Magoteaux, DL, 2014; Ken Magoteaux, 1995; Kyle Magoteaux, DB, 2001; Sean Mitchell, RB, 1992; Nate Monnin, OL/DL, 2017; Alex Nees, DB, 2016; Travis Nees, DB, 2012; Troy Ouhl, DL, 1991; Randi Pearson, 1973; Jafe Pitcock, DT, 2007; Pete Rolf, TE/LB, 2007; Darien Tipps-Clemons, RB/LB, 2017. Jon Vetter, OL, 2001.