Wapakoneta Escapes in OT

Wapakoneta quarterback Reed Merricle (3) escapes from the grasp of St. Marys’ Trey Fisher (10) on a third and 8 play in the fourth quarter of a Western Buckeye League football game on Friday at Harmon Field.
Sports Editor

It’s hard to stop a bowling ball when it gains speed and St. Marys found that out the hard way. 

Twenty of Wapakoneta’s running back Evan Kaeck’s 124 rushing yards on Friday night were the most telling as the senior ball carrier galloped for 15 yards on the Redskins’ first offensive play in overtime and bulldozed his way through the final five yards for a game-winning touchdown to hand St. Marys a 19-13 Western Buckeye League defeat at Harmon Field.

After winning two games in a row to Wapakoneta, St. Marys has lost two straight to its cross-county rival and finds itself 0-1 in the league for the first time in years.

“I want to give Wapakoneta credit, I thought, especially in the second half, that they really outplayed us,” Roughriders coach Doug Frye said. “You have to give them credit, but I thought we were a much better football team and it just hasn’t shown yet. 

“We are far from where we need to be this season.”

Friday’s game marked the first time between the two teams that a game went into overtime. St. Marys dropped to 6-5 all-time in overtime games.

The Roughriders received the ball first in overtime, but Gavin Reineke’s third-down pass intended for Dylan Trogdlon  was intercepted by Devin Huelskamp. Four plays later, Kaeck ended the game.

“I thought that Gavin being a sophomore thrown in did a very good job tonight and I think we are going to see him move forward more and more,” Frye said. “I think the supporting cast can be a little bit better right now.”

The Riders led 7-0 at the half and seemed to have the momentum coming out of halftime, but Kaeck rushed for two second-half scores to go along with his 124 yards on 23 carries for the Redskins (2-0, 1-0 WBL) — 18 of those 23 carries coming in the second half and overtime to wear down the Roughriders’ (1-1, 0-1) defense. 

“He is obviously a bowling ball-type running back,” Frye added.

Aside from Kaeck’s efforts, however, special teams played a big part in the game.

With the game tied at 7-7 in the fourth quarter and both teams enduring a combined three straight three-and-outs, Ty Howell broke the tie with a 74-yard punt return for a TD. The senior flushed right and ran down the sideline before cutting back and taking the ball up the field for the go-ahead score. 

Kicker Henry Spencer’s extra point was missed, giving Wapakoneta a chance for the lead if it scored with 7:44 left in regulation and the Redskins answered with a 15-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with a halfback pass for the touchdown. Wapakoneta quarterback Reed Merricle handed the ball to Braeden Goulet, who flushed to his left and threw a dart to Noah Ambos, who beat Trogdlon one-on-one for the touchdown with 1:23 remaining in the game. 

With a chance for the lead, Payne Harshbarger’s PAT was blocked, settling for the 13-13 tie as St. Marys eventually ran the clock out on the ensuing possession.

“Special teams were big tonight — we ran the punt return back in the second half and that was significant — but I thought our coverage and all of the little things were better in the first half than we were in the second half,” Frye said.

With a scoreless first quarter, St. Marys opened its fourth drive of the contest at the 40 yard line following a Wapakoneta punt. Ty Schlosser took the first play of the drive 21 yards to get into Wapakoneta territory as the senior back ran nine times in the possession, accounting for 52 of the Roughriders’ 60 yards before Reineke put the team on the board with a 1-yard QB dive on fourth and goal with 36 seconds left in the first half.

St. Marys out gained Wapakoneta 163 to 81 in yards, but the Redskins flipped the script in the second half — using primarily Kaeck.

The Redskins out gained St. Marys 178 to 36 in yards, 37 to 18 in plays and 16:13 to 7:46 in time of possession in the second half and overtime.

“I think we made some strides this week, but of all of the teams I have had, this team needs to just to get work a little bit more,” Frye said. “We cleaned a couple things up this week and I think if we continue down that path, we are going to win some games. But you have to string four quarters together.”

As part of its better play in the first half than the second, St. Marys’ opening drive stretched 60 yards — led by a 24-yard scamper by Ethan Wedding — but the promising drive stalled at the 20 yard line because of a holding call and Spencer’s 37-yard field goal try was blocked to keep the game scoreless.