Riders' Historic Season Ends To Prater, Wyoming

Members of the St. Marys Roughriders football team hold up a helmet prior to the second half of a Division IV state semifinal football game against Wyoming on Saturday
By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Sports Editor

In last week's regional championship game against Clear Fork, two turnovers turned the tide of a 7-7 game and allowed the Roughriders to steamroll to a state semifinal.

On Saturday, the script was flipped.

Not in the form of turnovers, but three plays essentially ended the Roughriders' season at Piqua Alexander Stadium that yielded points for the Cowboys and left the Riders empty-handed after a 35-14 Division IV state semifinal in an otherwise historic season.

"We made progress and obviously, every team's goal is to finish the season with a win at state, but we will continue to plug away and take it to another level," Roughriders coach Doug Frye said.

Wyoming quarterback Evan Prater did the most damage any quarterback has done on a St. Marys defense this season with 334 total yards of offense and five touchdowns and he was involved in at least two of those three crucial plays.

The 6-foot-5 junior turned a run up the middle into a 30-yard scamper during the Cowboys' second drive of the game that set up a Prater to Joey Edmunds 15-yard TD pass in the flat to tie the game at 7-7 with :44 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Prater then sealed the Riders' fate during the Cowboys' opening drive of the second half with a 24-yard connection on fourth and 9 to Edmunds to put the Roughriders in a 28-7 hole with just 20:37 left in the game.

"He is a D-I kid and I thought he played with toughness in addition to his God-given abilities," Frye said of Prater.

Possibly the biggest play in the game, however, was on special teams. 

After Prater concluded the Cowboys' 13-play, 82-yard drive with a 6-yard TD pass to Edmunds, kicker AJ Washienko pooched a short kick front of the St. Marys sideline that was snatched by Edmunds and downed at St. Marys' 38-yard line.

Prater then found Perry McMitchen on a contested catch with Ty Howell at the 1 yard line and Prater finished the rest with a QB sneak to give the Roughriders' its largest deficit of the season, 21-7, at the half.

"Before halftime, that special teams play was a huge momentum swing," Frye said. "We knew they were good football and that we had to do the little things well, but I thought there were chances we had — such as missed passes deep, a screen pass that didn't break open because of a missed blocked — so we didn't take care of the opportunities that presented themselves."

Those 14 points in a matter of 15 seconds took the wind out of the Roughriders' sails as the game never got closer than within two scores as Prater's TD to open the second half put the game out of reach, despite a chance by St. Marys to come back.

The Roughriders' first drive of the third quarter stalled on a fourth-down sack, but Jason Taylor recovered a Pierson Rogers' fumble on the next play that pulled the game within two scores, 28-14, in one play on a Sean Perry 11-yard run.

Gabe Vandever then recovered a short squib kick to put the Roughriders within 47 yards of making it a one-score game, but back-to-back incompletions and a screen pass to Ty Howell that ended in a 6-yard loss, thwarted St. Marys' comeback chances.

"There was some momentum swing there, but we just could not make the crucial or big play," Frye said. "A lot of that goes to their kids and the rest goes on our inability to finish tonight."

After each team went three-and-out on their opening possessions of the game, the Roughriders struck first, thanks to a 17-yard pass from Braeden Dunlap to Carter Ballweg that eventually set up a 7-yard power run by Ty Schlosser for the 7-0 lead with 3:08 left in the first quarter.

But Wyoming ripped off 28 straight points — the most consecutive points scored on the Roughriders this season — to put St. Marys in its unforeseen hole as it finished with a season-low 151 yards of total offense and a season-low 113 yards on the ground.

Prater finished 11-of-17 passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns and 147 rushing yards on 22 carries and two scores as a rusher. He accounted for all of the Cowboys' points and 91 percent of the team's offensive yardage.

For St. Marys, the loss ends an historic season for the football program in 2018.

The Roughriders became the first team in program history since the 1989-1993 teams to win three straight Western Buckeye League titles and became the first St. Marys team since the 2004 state runner-up squad to win a regional championship. 

The senior Ballweg broke the school record for most interceptions in a season with 10 and Perry tied the school record for most punt return touchdowns in a season with three and tied the most in a career with four. Perry also became just the eighth player in school history to run for more than 1,600 yards in a season (1,664) and finishes his career with 3,187 rushing yards — eighth all-time in school history.

Eighteen seniors played their final game for St. Marys on Saturday — a group that has seen the program win 39 games in their four-year careers.

"They are a tremendous group, I am so proud of them as players and as people," Frye said. "I can't say enough good things about the families they come from and what they have put into this program has been tremendous."

Problems in Piqua

If the St. Marys Roughriders football team would not have to play at Piqua Alexander Stadium, they would be happy.

Saturday's 35-14 Division IV state semifinal loss to Wyoming was the latest defeat for the St. Marys football program that remains winless at that stadium. 

The loss makes the team 0-3 all-time in the postseason, with other losses coming from the Urbana in 2002 and Trotwood-Madison in 2016 and the football program has lost in Piqua in at least the last four trips there, dating back to 2007 in a regular season game against the Indians. Prior games did not list home and away games.

 

In the three playoff losses, St. Marys has been outscored 84-48 and 118-68 in the last four games overall. In two of the last four seasons for the Roughriders, their season has ended in a town with a population of 20,000 people.