Riders Mudsling Cougars

St. Marys’ Eddie Fowler (38) grabs a hold of Van Wert quarterback Owen Treece (7), with teammate Blake Kanorr (97) chasing Treece during a Western Buckeye League football game on Friday.
Sports Editor

It didn’t look pretty or clean in the first quarter, but the St. Marys Roughriders cleaned up their play in the mud and rain after that.

After seeing the Roughriders trail for the first time all season and be held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time in 2018, the Roughriders ground out 38 unanswered points in wet and muddy conditions to bury Van Wert in the first road game of the season with a 38-6 victory on Friday.

St. Marys opened the first quarter with 90 yards of total offense, but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. Van Wert’s defense knifed through St. Marys’ offensive line early, clogging the running game, quarterback Braeden Dunlap missed a wide open Ty Howell in the second drive for what would have been a 59-yard TD pass and the Riders burned through all three of their timeouts in those first 12 minutes of Friday’s Western Buckeye League contest.

Making matters worse, Van Wert was the first opponent to score on St. Marys in the opening quarter when Nate Place ran for a 10-yard TD. The two-point failed for a 6-0 lead.

After the slow start offensively, Frye went to the air — like he did a week ago — but just a little later.

On its final drive of the opening quarter, St. Marys passed in the three of the first four plays — which actually yielded little yardage — but it opened the running game for a 35-yard run by Howell on third down. And even though the gain was negated because of offsetting penalties, the Riders were awarded a first down — keeping the drive alive. A 15-yard run by Howell set St. Marys at the 10 yard line — with Dunlap scoring three plays later on a stretch run to the right side from seven yards out to open the second quarter.

Gabe Vandever’s extra point gave the Riders their first lead, 7-6.

The Cougars were in a mudslide after St. Marys’ first scoring drive; mustering just 88 yards of offense during the next three quarters after churning out 70 yards in the first 12 minutes. Van Wert’s final 10 drives ended in six punts and four turnovers.

After two drives that ended in punts for Van Wert in the second quarter, the Riders enjoyed a short field thanks to a Sean Perry punt return. After back-to-back incompletions, Dunlap lined up in the polecat on fourth and 8 from the 30, rolled to his left and heaved a hail mary to the back of the south end zone where Ethan Freewalt was at the other end, wrestling the ball away from the defender for the touchdown.

St. Marys scored on its next possession after forcing Van Wert to punt as the Riders took just 1:01 to go up two scores when Eddie Fowler found the end zone with a 19-yard run to go up 21-6.

The backbreaker for Van Wert, however, was not the lack of offense, or St. Marys’ ability to score all of a sudden, but a turnover in the final drive of the first half.

St. Marys’ opportunistic defense continued their league-leading run on interceptions when Carson Fischbach picked off Owen Treece — who was under heavy pressure — inside the redzone to keep St. Marys’ two-score lead at the half.

To read the full story, see Saturday's print edition of The Evening Leader.