By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
PIQUA – The Piqua offense ground out a 56-27 win over Fairmont Friday night at Alexander Stadium/Purk Field – literally.
Unofficially, the Indians rushed for 502 yards on 57 carries.
“Not really,” fullback Jon Dembski said about Piqua seeing something in the Fairmont defense. “The line just did a great job and we were able to run all over the place.”
Dembski, who is over 700 yards rushing for the season, led “Ground Piqua” with 158 yards on 20 carries, while Ryan Hughes had 104 yards on seven carries and Travis Nees and quarterback Taylor Wellbaum rushed for 91 and 89 respectively.
“The line is just phenomenal,” Nees said. “They are giving us big holes to run through.”
And the line is equally impressed with the Piqua backfield.
“We have some amazing back,” Cody Hogston, who anchors the line from the center position, said. “It is a lot of fun to block for those guys.”
And Piqua had things going on both sides of the ball in the early going.
After both teams failed to move the ball on their opening possession, Dembski went to work with a 30-yard run setting up his five-yard score on a pitch from Wellbaum to make it 6-0.
Then Piqua’s defense and special teams swung the momentum the Indians way.
On Fairmont’s first play following the kickoff, Firebird quarterback Tom West took a shot from Brad Dotson as he delivered a pass and it floated into Hughes hand, who returned it to the 27-yard line.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I knew it was a really good hit,” Dotson said. “I think it was nice to get a big play like that.”
On the first play following the turnover, Tyler Sage took the ball into the end zone to make it 13-0 following Evan Grissom’s kick.
“The offensive line had a great game tonight,” Piqua coach Bill Nees said. “And I thought Taylor Wellbaum made great decisions (on the option) all night.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Piqua linebacker Brandon Pummill took the ball right out of the Fairmont return man’s hands and returned it 26 yards to the Piqua six.
“I don’t think the guy saw me,” Pummill said. “I kind of spun him around and when I did, he just handed the ball right to me. I was going to try and hurdle the last guy (on the return), then I saw Brad (Dotson). So, I just tried to juke the guy and he got me by the ankle.”
While the Indians didn’t score, it created a field position advantage.
Following a Fairmont punt, Hughes went 68 yards up the middle on the first play and Grissom’s kick made it 20-0 with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter.
The Firebirds didn’t quit, getting a long kickoff return and two touchdowns on halfback passes to get within 35-21 at the break.
“You know, they scored on a couple trick plays,” Nees said.
Travis Nees had a 43-yard TD run and Dembski scored from two yards out for Piqua’s final two scores of the half.
Fairmont had the ball to start the second half, but the Piqua defense got a three-and-out and would allow only one score the rest of the way.
“I thought that was big to get off the field on the first possession of the second half,” Nees said. “Because if we hadn’t, they would have been able to used that double-tight set and that is a really tough offense to stop. I thought we got back into a base defense the second half and played pretty well.”
Piqua continued to pound the ball at the Firebirds, with Dembski scoring from one-yard out, Nees scoring on a 35-yard run and Dembski adding a two-yard TD run after a 31-yard pass from Wellbaum to Ben Crawford.
“We have everybody working back there,” Nees said. “Taylor (Wellbaum) made a lot of good decisions and we hit some big passes when we needed them.”
Dembski says the emergence of Nees and Hughes in the running game only makes his job easier.
“Those guys (Wellbaum, Nees, Hughes) are doing a great job,” he said. “It just makes it harder for the other team. They had some big runs tonight.”
Travis Nees said the powerful fullback and his bruising runs are the key.
“It is great,” he said. “But, we are just out there to give Jon (Dembski) a break. He is a great runner.”
In the process, the Indians have turned things around. After losing the first four games played on turf last season, they have now won four straight at home.
“It is exciting,” Dembski said. “It is great to be winning at home – now we hope to do it on the road.”
Piqua, 3-2, now has quite a two-week challenge, playing at Trotwood-Madison, followed by Troy the next week.
“We knew we had to have this one,” Travis Nees said. “It’s nice to have some momentum – now we have to run the gauntlet with Trotwood-Madison and Troy.”
Friday night, they just ran over Fairmont.