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SKIP BAUGHMAN STADIUM -- Mother Nature proved to be the biggest obstacle in the Roughriders' 2002 debut Friday night.
After the start of the game was delayed an hour and a half due to lightning, St. Marys rolled to an impressive 20-7 victory over the visiting Sidney Yellow Jackets.
The Riders figured out how to get the chicken grease off their fingers, which plagued them a week earlier in a fumbling performance in the annual pre-season finale.
And coach Doug Frye was quite please with the improvement he saw in one week.
"I'm very pleased with the way this team showed up ready to play tonight,:" Frye said, "especially with the tough circumstances caused by the delay. They didn't let anything bother them tonight, and I gotta tell you this was a classic team effort."
"We're an extremely young football team, and that's a quality Sidney team." Frye added.
Despite two sophomores in the starting backfield, the Roughrider offense was solid, while the defense was even better. St. Marys allowed just 73 total yards, including just 54 on the ground.
Sidney's only score came in the fourth quarter, following a Roughrider fumble on their own 23 yard line.
While not flashy, the St. Marys offense executed well, scoring on its second possession of the game. After driving inside the Sidney 25 on its first possession, St. Marys turned the ball over on downs when sophomore quarterback Corey Vossler was sacked on a fourth down play.
Three plays later Jeremy Sutton recovered a Sidney fumble and the Riders were back in business at the 25. A 10-yard gainer by another sophomore, Justin Nagel, got the Riders inside the 10, from there, Vossler finished off the drive with a six-yard bootleg over the right side.
Nick Pfeffenberger's PAT was good, and the Riders were on the board with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
An excellent kick return got the Jackets started near midfield. A first down run by Branden Parker moved the ball to the St. Marys 34. But from there the drive went backward, forcing a Sidney punt, which rolled dead at the S. Marys 7 yard line with just over 10 minutes to play in the half.
From there the Roughrider offense put on a ball-control clinic, marching 93 yards in 16 plays, using over seven minutes of clock to score their second touchdown.
The Wing-T was clicking on all cylinders, especially junior fullback Shawn Clark, who was hitting the trap hole in mid-season form.
At one point during the drive, one of the Sidney coaches in the press box relayed the following message via head phones to one of the coaches on the field: "They don't even know who's carrying the damn ball!"
Vossler again capped the drive, this time with a one-yard sneak, and Pfeffenberger's PAT made the score 14-0 at halftime.
"From an offensive standpoint that drive was huge," Frye said. "We controlled the line of scrimmage and played with and extra pop in our step, and I think it showed."
The Riders put some icing on the cake in the third quarter. A 16-yard gain by Nagel, followed by a 15-yard scamper by Vossler, set the Riders up inside the Sidney five. From there Craft hit paydirt for the first time this season on a three yard dive.
Pfeffenberger pulled the PAT leaving the score at 20-0 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
The Riders appeared to have landed the knockout punch, when Jeremy Cable intercepted a Sidney pass early in the fourth quarter, however, Brandt Huttis fumbled on the very next play, setting up the Yellow Jacketsw only score of the night.
But any thoughts of a big comeback were squelched as the St. Marys defense did not allow another Sidney first down the rest of the night.
"Our defense is senior dominated and they are going to have to set the tone for this football team this year," Frye said.
The Roughrider defensive backfield played exceptionally well, limiting Sidney to just four receptions on 16 attempts for 19 yards.
The Riders never attempted a pass, although Vossler appeared to have thought about it a few times. He ended up with 22 yards on six carries.
Craft was the top gun out of the backfield with 125 yards on 21 carries, while Nagel finished with 82 yards on 21 carries and Huttis with 44 yards on 12 carries.
The young Riders have the fortune of three consecutive home games to start the season. Next week the Wapakoneta Redskins come to town for the Western Buckeye League opener.
Frye will be looking for the improvement to continue.
"There's no magic to it," he said. "We had a great week of practice. We brought it to Friday and got a great win. We took a large leap from last week to this, but we have got a long ways to go to be a very good football team.."