PIQUA — There is no question Piqua football is viewed as the team to beat in the MVL.
The Indians haven’t lost a regular season game since 2019 and are coming off a trip to the D-II, Region 8 regional final.
And while Piqua lost some key players to graduation, they have plenty of talent returning.
“We have a really strong sophomore class,” Nees said. “And one of the things we have focused on is creating depth at all positions.”
Brady Ouhl will be back to lead an explosive offense for the third straight season.
The 6-foot-1, 181-pound senior had a 16-0 record in regular season games and has led Piqua to a 4-2 record in the playoffs over the last two seasons.
Last season, he completed 118 of 173 passes for 1,584 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions.
He also rushed for 560 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 carries.
“He creates a lot of things in play action with his ability to throw the ball and the ability to run it,” Nees said. “He can make a lot of things happen.”
Sophomore Caiden Thomas (5-8, 151) will be the back up.
And Ouhl has plenty of weapons.
Senior Bryson Roberts (5-11, 188) returns at running back.
He had 249 yards rushing last year on 50 carries, including four touchdowns.
Also seeing action in the backfield will be senior Sam Schmiesing (6-2, 223), junior Ky Warner (6-1, 189) and junior Andrew Miller (5-8, 169).
The H-back will be senior Colton Beougher (6-3, 206) and junior Gage Gambill (6-0, 183).
Beougher caught 15 passes for 137 yards last year, with four going for touchdowns.
There is a deep group at receiver including senior Ryan Brown (6-1, 167), senior Dre’Sean Roberts (6-1, 181), senior Elijah Frazier (6-2, 173), junior Mickey Anderson (6-0, 172), junior Romen Medley (6-1, 172), senior Peyton Offenbacher (5-8, 161) and junior Carson Hawk (5-10, 172).
Dre’Sean Roberts caught 29 passes for 362 yards last year and Brown caught 11 passes for 220 yards.
“We have a lot of different rotations at receiver,” Nees said. “Dre’Sean Roberts, Ryan Brown and Elijah Frazier are all back and Mickey Anderson played quite a bit last year.”
The offensive line returns three starters from a year ago.
Junior Parker James (6-3, 287) will be the center, while both guards return from last season. They are seniors Brayden Soliday (6-1, 301) and Jacob Voskuhl (6-2, 249).
Senior tackle Anson Cox (6-5, 271) returns at one tackle and junior Jonathan Stavinoha (6-2, 278) will be at the other tackle spot.
Senior Kevin Slife (6-0, 256) is working his way into playing time as well.
“We have three starters back,” Nees said. “Parker James played a lot last year, so it is like having four starters back.”
On defense, the Indians will had some key losses up front, but the back seven features a lot of experience and speed.
Cox returns at one defensive tackle spot. Also in the mix are junior Derek Jones (5-11, 223), sophomore Haiden Weigel (6-2, 227) and senior Bryce Deal (5-8, 324).
Seeing action at defensive end will be junior Landen Martin (6-0, 194), junior Aiden Williams (5-10, 187) and senior Brennan Johns (5-10, 181).
“We just need to get the defensive line some experience,” Nees said. “That is one of the reason we went with a three-way scrimmage for our first scrimmage.”
The inside linebackers will be returning All-MVL players in junior Devin Finley (6-0, 197) and Schmiesing.
Schmiesing led the defense with a 139 tackles a year ago and Finley had 52.
The outside linebackers will be Roberts and Beougher.
“Three of the four linebackers were all-MVL last year,” Nees said. “I believe Sam Schmiesing was runnerup for Defensive Player of the Year.”
Warner will handle the safety position, while Frazier, Dre’Sean Roberts and sophomore Drake Owen (6-0, 160) will see action at the corner spots.
“One of things about our defense is our speed,” Nees said. “This is the most speed we have had in a long time.”
The Indians weapon in the kicking game returns as well in senior Jackson Trombley (5-11, 180).
While he was 72-for-74 on PAT kicks and perfect on two field goal attempts, Trombley is lethal on kickoffs.
All but a handful of his kickoffs went for touchbacks a year ago and he averaged 34.8 yards on punts.
“His kickoffs (for touchbacks) are a huge thing,” Nees said.
The Indians will face the same schedule as a year ago — opening with Belmont followed by nine MVL games.
Nees sees the conference as strong and competitive.
“I think we had seven teams go to the playoffs last year and three of them won in the opening round,” he said. “Our kids do (enjoy the challenge of getting everybody’s best shot). But, I think they also understand it is harder to stay on top then to get there sometimes. And they are putting the hard work in (to get ready for that challenge).”
And looking to continue their success.
You can reach Sports Editor Rob Kiser at [email protected]