ST. MARYS — Bath head coach Bill Garland and his Wildcats broke through with their first win, a 27-21 victory over St. Marys at Skip Baughman Stadium on a picturesque homecoming Friday night.
The team waited five weeks to taste victory. Garland's been paying his dues for 30 years as an assistant coach, becoming a fixture in the program before he ever became its head coach.
After three decades as an assistant with the Wildcats, Garland had glossy eyes as he and his team celebrated. The Wildcats raised up their gold helmets in front of their band, bobbing them to the sound of the fight song.
“I’m just so happy for our kids,” Garland said. “They knew it was my first win, but more importantly, it’s their first win this year. We’ve been through four tough weeks.”
The key play came when Eric Heffner dashed 87 yards for a touchdown on a game-changing kick-off return in the third quarter.
Bath at St. Marys football photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smeveningleader/sets/72157635966990963/show/
Bath won this battle of winless teams by capitalizing on St. Marys turnovers and a flurry of Roughrider penalties to go along withthe big return from Heffner when St. Marys had just seized the game’s momentum with a tying touchdown.
St. Marys (0-5, 0-4 WBL) outgained Bath (1-4, 1-3 WBL) in total yards of offense, 350-167, but the Riders committed 11 penalties for 109 yards.
St. Marys tied the game 14-14 with 1:02 left in the third quarter on Patrick Obringer’s one-yard touchdown run on a fourth and goal play. Obringer followed his blockers on a sweep to the right and knifed into the end zone.
But Heffner took the ensuing kickoff on a line, weaved through traffic at midfield and then motored down the left sideline for the go-ahead score 12 seconds after St. Marys had tied it.
“I’ve been challenging our seniors to make plays and Eric Heffner did it,” Garland said. “You could just see our sideline erupted and everybody got it back going. It was huge, a huge momentum swing.”
Heffner also had a big interception in the second quarter to swing the momentum.
Bath added a touchdown with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter on a 10-play, 69-yard touchdown drive capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cameron Jenkins to big Colin Gossard, who was open down the middle of the field for the score. Gossard led Bath with eight catches for 96 yards and the touchdown.
St. Marys blocked the extra point and then got to within six points with a quick drive. The Riders answered with a nine-play drive that took less than two minutes and was keyed by an 11-yard pass from Isaac Fitzgerald to Quinn Zaerr and an 11-yard run from Patrick Obringer. Obringer had 47 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Chase Roop led the Roughriders with 69 yards rushing on five carries.
Fitzgerald plowed in on a keeper from the one yard line to get the Riders to within 27-21 with 2:18 left.
Bath covered up St. Marys’ onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.
Things looked much rosier early in the game for the Roughriders, who scooped up a Bath fumble on the second play from scrimmage and led 7-0 three and a half minutes into the contest.
St. Marys marched 37 yards on five plays for the touchdown. Chase Roop had runs of 17 and 11 yards on sweeps before the Riders scored on a fourth and five at the Bath 17 yard line.
Isaac Fitzgerald took the snap out of the shotgun and five wide, finding a leaping Jared Knous running a seam route down the middle of the field. Knous dropped the ball but officials ruled he had already crossed the goal line for the opening score. Clayton Trodglon’s extra point made it 7-0 in favor of the Roughriders.
Turnovers ended up being St. Marys’ undoing as Bath scored 14 straight points to end the first half.
Bath tied the game after a St. Marys turnover later in the first quarter. The Riders fumbled at their own 18 yard line and Bath’s Tyler Shobe scooped it up.
Bath scored seven plays later on Chase Clark one-yard touchdown plunge with 2:40 left in the first quarter. Garrett Norton’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.
St. Marys’ Trent Slife intercepted Bath’s Jenkins on the first play of the second quarter, but St. Marys’ drive stalled at midfield.
After the St. Marys defense forced a punt, the Riders were thinking about taking a lead into the half as they got the ball back with 4:16 left at its own 44-yard line.
Instead, Bath flipped the field position with a takeaway. Heffner picked off a Fitzgerald pass and returned it nearly 40 yards to set up a late-half touchdown drive for Bath. Going out of the Wildcat formation, Tre Wheeler took the shotgun snap and squirted through the center of the line for a 20-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left in the first half.
“We’ve talked to our defense from day one that we wanted to create turnovers and finally we got them today,” Garland said. “And we told our offense, if the defense is going to put us in the situation to be successful we have to punch it in and get it in the end zone. We did that and we came out with a big W.”
St. Marys drove down to the Bath 10 yard line before time ran out. Fitzgerald went 4 of 5 for 47 yards passing on that final drive, but the clock ran out on his 21-yard pass to Quinn Zaerr.
St. Marys opened up the passing game on Friday night to some success. Fitzgerald went 12 of 20 passing for 159 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Fitzgerald and Zaerr connected five times for 78 yards. Knous caught two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.
St. Marys travels to Celina next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.