Riders Rout Defiance

Members of the St. Marys Roughriders defense rally to tackle Defiance’s Jackson Rey (1) during a Western Buckeye League football game on Friday at Grand Lake Health System Field.
Sports Editor

It was a good night to send the seniors off in what could be their final home football game of their careers on Friday. 

St. Marys' seniors accounted for 182 of the teams 301 total yards of offense and scored five of the team's seven touchdowns for a 48-6 regular-season finale victory against Defiance at Grand Lake Health System Field.

The Western Buckeye League game was off to a slow start for St. Marys (8-2, 7-2 WBL) — winners of five straight — but once the seniors got the ball rolling it never stopped from there. 

"It wasn't our best game by any means and we have to clean up the little things, but it's a win tonight and we did what we needed to do," Roughriders coach Doug Frye said. "But we need to continue to do the little things if we are going to continue to play."

After being shutout in the first quarter of the game since week 3 against Ottawa-Glandorf with the Bulldogs (2-8, 2-7) leading 6-0, the Roughriders scored 48 unanswered points — with five of the first six touchdowns coming from the senior class.

St. Marys answered the Bulldogs' touchdown with 4:11 remaining in the opening quarter on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ate up 4:17 of clock and concluded when Ty Howell took the toss to the left side, cut back slightly to find the endzone for a 7-6 St. Marys lead with 11:54 left in the second quarter for the first of four consecutive first-half scoring possessions.

After a 31-yard drive that ended in a Defiance punt, the Roughriders rallied off another double-digit play drive with a 10-play, 94-yard possession. The drive began when Defiance's punt hopped over Howell as the senior retreated back to down the ball on the Roughriders' 6 yard line. Runs of 18 yards by Howell and 11 yards by Ethan Wedding and two third down conversions eventually set up a 39-yard pass play from Kurt Bubp to Howell in the middle of the field as Howell juggled the ball into the endzone for a 14-6 lead with 5:20 remaining in the half. 

The turnovers started to come beginning with Defiance's next possession when Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Cruz was picked off on a pass across the middle by Howell, who returned the interception for a touchdown, the score was called back, but eventually served as a minor inconvenience three plays later when Ross Henschen broke free up the middle for an 18-yard scamper and a 21-6 lead. 

A Defiance three-and-out on its next possession saw Henschen rip a 54-yard run through the middle of the defense and back-to-back passes from Bubp to Carson Fischbach — with the second pass being a 20-yard touch pass in the left corner of the endzone — led to a 28-6 halftime lead.

After a scoreless third quarter, St. Marys did the rest of its damage in the final 12 minutes of the game beginning with a Bubp to Blake Kanorr 6-yard TD pass as the senior tight end stuck his route and sat right in the middle of the defense and the endzone for the score. 

The senior Bubp had one of the best games of his career with a 7-for-8 night passing, 122 yards and three scores — his second three-touchdown passing game this season. 

On Defiance's ensuing possession, Cruz was chased and lost the ball as he was getting tackled as Lukas Walter scooped up the ball and ran 41 yards for his first career touchdown to push St. Marys' lead to 42-6 lead with 5:20 remaining and Brayden Sullivan concluded the scoring with a 23-yard TD run following a Cruz interception for his first career varsity TD.

The Roughriders' first season away from Skip Baughman Stadium since its inception ended successfully with a 5-0 record and outscored opponents 190-50.

"What a way to start up the home year by going undefeated at home in the regular season," Frye added. "It has been a great tribute to all of the people who put all of the effort into getting this stadium built. All we can do now as coaches is to try to win and maybe it is a nice tradition for us."

For a team whose playoff chances were nearly on life support after their week 3 loss to Ottawa-Glandorf, the Roughriders will now be preparing for their fourth straight postseason appearance and 10th playoff game during that span — marking the longest playoff streak since the program made postseason appearances from 2000-03. The only difference about this year compared to the first three is that the Roughriders will most likely be playing its first game on the road. 

As of 1 a.m. Saturday, Joe Eitel had St. Marys ranked sixth in the Division III, Region 12 computer rankings with a regional quarterfinal game set next Friday at No. 3 seeded Franklin — the Roughriders defeated Franklin 55-31 in a regional semifinal in 2016.

"Where we were at earlier in the year was a tough situation and I think a true character in people is really determined not when you are on top, but when you are knocked down a couple of times and all of a sudden, or you have to get back up and come back or are you going to lay down and let it happen," Frye said. "It is a true tribute to our kids, the families they are from and the senior leadership for the way we came back."