Riders Win First WBL Game In Home Opener

St. Marys’ Kurt Bubp escapes from Van Wert’s Kolby Barnhart during a Western Buckeye League football game on Friday.
Sports Editor

You couldn’t ask for a better way to start a new era of St. Marys football.

Christening their much-awaited football stadium next to the grounds of Memorial High School, the Roughriders opened a new chapter in their luxurious history with a refreshing 24-14 Western Buckeye League victory against Van Wert on Friday at Grand Lake Health Systems Field.

It was the first football game ever played on that field — constructed nearly 10 years ago — resulting in the program’s first victory on that field and marking the Roughriders’ first WBL win of the young season.

“Hats off to the community, the school system and the city of St. Marys, what a beautiful facility we put together here and it was a great tonight and enjoyed by everyone,” Roughriders coach Doug Frye said. “I think they were amped up. We have been talking about it for a long time and they were excited for the opportunity tonight.”

The game featured a lot of firsts in its inaugural game at GLHS Field, but it also showcased some of the old — hard-nosed Roughrider football that ate up clock and relied on the big running plays.

“We started doing some basic things better and that is really what we concentrated on all week,” Frye said. “We are far from where we need to be — I thought we were playing about two and a half quarters of football, but now we are up to three — once we can put up a complete game of football together, this might be a dangerous team.”

The first touchdown ever at GLHS Field was four plays in on a 49-yard drive that resulted in a 7-yard TD run by Ty Howell to put St. Marys on the board in its opening drive of the game.

Three drives later, Van Wert answered with a Jake Hilleary 8-yard run, but big offensive plays from seniors Ty Howell and Kurt Bubp set up the Roughriders’ next three scoring drives that, in essence, put the game out of reach.

“I thought the composure there of Kurt [Bubp] and a number of our seniors we pretty remarkable tonight,” Frye said.

Facing a third-and-20 from their own 21, Roughriders starting quarterback in Bubp threw a 15-yard pass to Gavin Reineke, who lateraled the ball to Carson Fischbach for what ended up being a 31-yard gain and a fresh set of downs. 

On the next play, Bubp avoided a negative play and scrambled 34 yards to get down to the three, where the senior signal caller punched it in with a 1-yard dive for a 14-7 lead.

To open the second half, Ty Howell pushed defenders out of the way down the left sideline on a second-and-2 and scored on a 48-yard run to push St. Marys’ lead to 21-7. Two St. Marys drives later, the Roughriders extended the lead as part of their 17 straight points scored.

Facing a third-and-20 and outside field goal range, Frye opted to go with a polecat play with Bubp getting the shotgun snap from Reineke. 

Bubp looked to his left then took off from his right for a 16-yard gain to set up Brandon Bowers’ 39-yard field goal, which he made as he tucked the ball into the right upright for a 24-7 lead with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.

Even when St. Marys didn’t score, the Roughriders still put together an effective drive on offense.

With the ball to open the fourth quarter, the Roughriders ate up 8:53 of clock on a 14-play drive that ended in a punt, but gave Van Wert just 5:01 to try to erase a 17-point deficit. 

Frye added that the coaching staff settled on their quarterback, with Kurt Bubp being the starter moving forward. 

In his first varsity start a quarterback, Bubp finished 4-of-6 passing for 52 yards and 44 yards on five carries and a score.

“Kurt did another nice job tonight,” Frye said. “We just need to continue to improve on the fundamentals, but for right now we are going to celebrate the night because it was a great night to open the stadium and great for our community.”

The Cougars scored on their ensuing possession on a Kaiden Bates 1-yard run up the middle and recovered an offside kick, but a sack and an incomplete pass on fourth down ended the attempted comeback.

“We have been up and down and we have shown sparks, but tonight — we could have finished a little bit better — but hey, a win is a win,” Frye said.

St. Marys’ defense — which has struggled throughout the first three games of the season by allowing 23.7 points per game and an average of 272 yards of total offense — got into a groove by allowing just 127 yards of total offense on nine non-scoring drives and forced two turnovers — the most in a game this season. 

Frye added young players into the mix such as putting junior Wyland McCollum on the defensive line and first-year varsity starter Brandon Paul had his best game of the season with an interception and a number of tackles.

“We counted the other day and we have about 32 players on Friday night and about 11 are seniors right now,” Frye said. “So we are seeing a lot of puppies tonight who are seeing the field, including a couple of freshmen.”Every week, we line it up and we never know who is going to start so we are competing every week and that is a good thing.