VAN WERT -- With a punishing ground game and some big scoring plays, St. Marys might have been reminding a few seasoned fans of its State Championship days. And with a 34-6 win at Van Wert Friday, the Roughriders improved to 7-0 for the first time since the '93 team ran the table en route to a Division II State Title.
The Riders rambled for 19 first downs and 382 yards, making it loook easy at times, scoring on runs of 51 and 54 yards.
With the win, coupled with losses by Shawnee and Defiance, the Riders now hold a 2-game lead in the Western Buckeye League title chase with three games to play. St. Marys sits atop the league at 6-0, looking for its 22nd league title. Shawnee, Defiance, Ottawa-Glandorf, and Kenton are all two games back at 4-2.
The Riders travel to Shawnee next week, then play host to a emerging Kenton team and finish out the season at Elida.
After an exchange of punts the Riders got the scoring started on the first play of their second possession. Aaron Homan went mis-direction on the counter play, broke into the clear, and raced 51 yards to the end zone untouched. Chaz Adkins booted the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 7:55 left in the first quarter.
The Cougar offense responded with its second three-and-out and its second punt of the opening quarter.
Starting at its own 34 yard line, St. Marys was much more methodical, marching 66 yards in nine plays with Jeremy Frey covering the final 23 yards on a dive play. Adkins’ kick for the extra point was blocked, giving the Riders a 13-0 edge with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
Following a short kickoff, Van Wert got its offense into gear. Converting on a fourth down and a third-and-12, the Cougars penetrated inside the St. Marys 10 yard line. However, a fumbled pitch lost nine yards, followed by three straight incomplete passes, and the Riders took over on downs at the Van Wert 15.
After a first down running and passing, the Riders struck with another big counter play. This time it was Cody Martin breaking into the clear and racing 54 yards for the third St. Marys TD of the half. St. Marys coach Doug Frye elected to go for the two point conversion, and the strategy paid off as Matt Taylor lofted a pass to Tyler Menker for a 21-0 lead with 6:18 left in the half.
The Rider “D” came up with two turnovers late in the half but could not convert on either. Paul Lauth scooped up a fumble near mid-field, but St. Marys’ offense was unable to pick up a first down.
Cory Dammeyer came up with a big defensive play to start the second half as he stepped in front of a Flemming pass and returned it to the Van Wert 42.
The Riders were able to cash in on this turnover as Frye shuffled in several running backs who combined for 58 yards on eight carries. Dan Roberts went the final three yards for the score and Adkins toed the PAT for a 28-0 lead with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
Van Wert was forced to punt on its next possession, however Derek Freewalt was unable to hang on to the punt and the Cougars recovered the St. Marys 13 yard line. But again, the Rider defense stiffened with a big sack by Adam Lininger, and Van Wert turned the ball over on downs.
The Riders picked up a couple of first downs but then the drive stalled, forcing a punt. From there Van Wert was able to mount its only scoring drive of the night.
An 11-yard pass to Nathan Williams plus 15 more yards for a face mask penalty got the Cougars into St. Marys territory. Flemming then hooking up with Connor Massillo for a gain of 20 yards to the St. Marys 11. After another big sack, it looked like the Riders would hold again with their backs to the wall, but on fourth-and-16 Flemming found Donny Sites open in the end zone for a touchdown with 8 minutes left in the game.
Nate Adams’ kick for the extra point was blocked, and the Riders held a 28-6 lead. But that margin didn’t last long, as the Riders answered quickly with a 60-yard drive on just five plays. Frey scored his second TD, this time from 26 yards out with 6:06 left to play. Adkins’ kick was wide right.
Frey led the Riders on the ground with 103 yards on 14 carries. Homan hit triple digits with 100 yards on seven carries. Cody Martin added 78 yards on eight carries.
The Cougars were limited to 43 yards rushing on 30 carries. Flemming had a big night through the air, completing 13 of 30 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown.