By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
The Piqua football team showed a lot of heart and mettle against Lebanon Friday night, constantly battling back.
But, the Indians came up one play short in a 40-33 loss to the Warriors.
“Yes, we did keep battling back,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “But, we have to quit putting ourselves in those holes.”
It came down to the final play.
Piqua, trailing 40-33 after a 1-yard TD run by Aaron Abbott and kick by Anthony Wene, started at its own 25 with 1:05 remaining.
But, a 34-yard pass from Taylor Wellbaum to Trae Honeycutt put Piqua on the Lebanon 9 with 12 seconds to go.
After two incompletions, there were 3.8 seconds to go and Piqua was down to its last play.
Wellbaum was pressured immediately as he rolled out and reversed his field back behind the 20 to buy some time.
He found Ryan Hughes at the 10-yard line, but there a number of Lebanon players between him and the goal line and he was tackled at the three.
“It is a tough way to lose, but we gave ourselves a chance,” Nees said.
Lebanon drove 66 yards on the opening series before Kindric Link picked off a Luke Morgan pass on the Lebanon 1.
But, Piqua cold only pick up one first down and Lebanon got the ball back on its own 47.
It took them only two plays to find the end zone.
Following a 28 yard pass from Morgan to Austin Wolf, Aaron Abbott ran 25 yards for the score. Piqua blocked the PAT to keep it 6-0.
Piqua went 77 yards on 13 plays to take the lead.
On third-and-goal from the one, Jon Dembski appeared to make it two yards into the end zone, but was marked down at the one. On fouth down, quarterback Taylor Wellbaum pushed his way into the end zone on the third play of the second quarter and Evan Grissom’s kick made it 7-6.
Lebanon, aided by a face mask penalty, went 80 yards in two plays, with Abbott catching a 31-yard pass, then scoring from 34 yards out.
Piqua was moving down the field again when Lebanon returnedHard a fumble 37 yards for a score and following the PAT lead 19-7.
Piqua countered with a 70-yard drive, with Travis Nees scoring from 26 yards out after Dembski had converted a fourth-down on the drive.
Grissom’s kick made it 19-14.
After forcing Lebanon’s only punt, Wellbaum connected with Nees, Ben Crawford and Trae Honeycutt to set up a 35-yard field goal by Grissom on the final play of the half to make it 19-17
The second half began with Piqua running the ball at will.
The Indians went 66 yards without throwing a pass, with Dembski taking a delayed handoff from Wellbaum into the end zone from eight yards out to put Piqua up 23-19 after the two-point pass failed.
The rest of the game would continue with both teams going up and down the field, as there were no punts in the final two quarters.
Abbott, who finished with 248 yards on 25 carries, was a one-man wrecking crew for Lebanon.
“He’s a good back,” Nees said.
Following a 1-yard TD run by Abbott, Piqua was called for roughing the kicker.
Leading 26-23 and with the 15-yard penalty added onto the kickoff, the Warriors onside kicked and recovered at the Piqua 33.
But, Piqua got a defensive stop. On fourth down, Trey Pruitt broke up a pass to get Piqua the ball back.
“We had two good defensive stops,” Nees said. “One in the first half and one after the onside kick.”
Dembski had a 46-yard run that set up a 1-yard run by Taylor Wellbaum.
Grissom’s kick put Piqua in front 30-26, but the lead did not last long.
Lebanon went 80 yards in five plays, with Morgan running the ball in from 15 yards out.
Piqua went back down the field, but the drive stalled at the 15 and Grissom booted a 32-yard field goal to tie it.
Lebanon would answer with what would be winning touchdown quickly, going 80 yards in nine plays.
Abbott had runs of 30 and 18 yards on the drive, setting up his 1-yard TD run that would seal Piqua’s fate.
Dembski had 151 yards rushing for Piqua, while Wellbaum completed 14 of 25 passes for 156 yards.
But, the Indians were whistled for 87 yards in penalties, including four 15 yarders.
“The penalties were a big part of this game,” Nees said. “And those are mental things, not physical mistakes..”
Piqua, 2-2, will host Fairmont Friday.