Into my high school days on Campbell Road over a half century ago, it seemed natural for a Sidney guy to have a dislike of Piqua and its athletic teams. It was always special for our Yellow Jackets to beat archrival Piqua, and that part hasn’t changed. However, a long time ago I eliminated “dislike” from the analysis. Over time I discovered a lot of good folks from Piqua, many of whom became my friends.
Several of my Sidney HS buddies were wrestlers, and they got to know their Piqua counterparts beyond the wrestling mat. In turn, I met the Piqua guys. In June 1972 I did the unthinkable when I went to a Piqua graduation party in an alley near the old Piqua Central High School and had a good time. I was the guest of wrestler Dave Wills.
I became a radio and TV sportscaster in Sidney in 1975 and remained until 2004. We went to Piqua often, not only for Sidney-Piqua football and basketball but also for small school boys basketball tourneys. During this period I became good friends with Piqua athletic director and tournament manager Ed Purk and his successor Steve Magoteaux.
Fast forward to 2001 (and just before) when that duo was immersed in the Piqua stadium project. I went to their media open house where Purk told me that many Sidney followers had already toured the new facility and expressed interest in something similar for Sidney. “Your people were enthused and asked a lot of questions. There’s a new stadium in your future, and we’ll help guide you. In a few years, you’ll be doing the same for other schools,” Purk confidently stated. He was right on all counts. Sidney Memorial Stadium opened in 2004 and I was deeply involved in an incredibly rewarding experience.
I enjoyed interactions with several Piqua coaches, the most notable being boys basketball coach Dave Zeller reminiscing about his single season with the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals in 1961-62. “Z” made the league minimum of $6000 to serve as backup to the great guard Oscar Robertson.
This past Friday I attended yet another football game between our two schools in Sidney. As always, I got pumped when the bands entered and played their fight songs. I still know the words of each.
“Sidney High, Sidney High, never let that spirit die….”
“Oh hit the line you Piqua Indians, oh hit the line hard and low…..”
I sat in the north end zone toward the Piqua side in hopes of seeing some familiar faces prior to gametime. There was 83 year old Ed Purk and we exchanged greetings. Next was athletic director Chip Hare, the former Dayton Flyer basketball standout. His brainchild a few years back established a Sidney-Piqua all sports championship for each school year. Assistant coach Rick Krejci also stopped to visit. At age 65 he’s a coaching “lifer” and still loves it.
Then I located Piqua’s long standing and successful football coach Bill Nees as he exited his locker room about ten minutes before kickoff. The entry to that locker room displays a plaque that salutes long time opposing coaches who have appeared regularly in Sidney. Three of the names coached the Piqua Indians…..Bucky Wertz, Chuck Asher, and Bill Nees.
I approached Nees, extended my hand, and said simply, “Welcome.” That single word summarizes how I feel about Sidney vs Piqua.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. The author went to his first Sidney-Piqua football game in 1962, ten years before his graduation from SHS. He is the historian of Sidney football.