ST. MARYS — It took until the regular season finale for St. Marys to suffer a loss, 13-7 to Ottawa-Glandorf. The question was for the Roughriders how they were going to respond after the defeat going into the playoffs.
The answer was two big victories in their first two playoff games when they first easily handled Brookville, 42-8, in the first round and then came back last week to upset a talented Franklin squad 55-31.
St. Marys head coach Doug Frye credits his senior leadership for keeping the team focused.
“We have a tremendous senior class that is phenomenal,” Frye said. “They are stable and continue to impress me. I thought we might hit a plateau at some point but the seniors have kept the team focused and that impressed me.”
Twenty seniors dot the Roughrider roster with six of those players having earned two or more letters.
Tailback Eric Spicer, the Western Buckeye League offensive player of the year, garnered most of the accolades this season after rushing for more than 1,400 yards to lead the WBL.
Spicer’s skills were in full display against Franklin when he accumulated more than 330 yards of total offense. But the talented senior is also complemented by his backfield mate Julius Fisher, the bruiser of the backfield, who scored four times and was the workhorse in the second half when St. Marys needed to sustain long drives to not only control the clock but to keep Franklin’s high powered offense off the field.
Quarterback Dustin Howell, who is there to keep the offense balanced, also provides solid leadership in the huddle.
Some of the unsung seniors heroes on offense are the men who do the blocking and the Roughriders offensive line is anchored by Joey Morlino who was tabbed the the offensive lineman of the year in the WBL. Also on the line that received second-team All-WBL honors was tight end Seth Vorhees.
The all-WBL first-team defense had an abundance of senior Roughriders including defensive lineman of the year Matt Patten. Also garnering first team honors were Howell as a defensive back and defensive end Matt Patten. Seniors making the second-team were Spicer at defensive back, William Bayham on the defensive line and linebacker Grant Keith.
Frye said many of these seniors were the cornerstone of the Roughriders return to the top of the WBL.
“It takes some time to build a program and these guys have been with me for the three years I have been here,” said Frye, who also had to build a coaching staff and gives them credit for developing these players into winners. “They are a level headed group of seniors that understand what it takes to build a program.”
Frye said they will need all they have learned in the past three years when they face perennial powerhouse Trotwood-Madison in Piqua at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Rams, who suffered losses to state ranked Troy and Wayne during the regular season, have posted two big wins in the playoffs by defeating WBL co-champ Wapakoneta 41-7 and then dominating New Richmond 47-10 in the regional semifinal Saturday.
Frye is somewhat familiar with the tradition of Trotwood-Madision after losing to the Rams, 27-6, in the playoffs in 2011. That Rams team would eventually go on to win the state title.
“They are a well-coached team with a lot of speed and some standout athletes,” Frye said.
Frye continued that the game against Franklin, which also boasted top-notch athletes and speed, was a good test for St. Marys because the Rams are similar in style.
Quarterback Markell Stephens-Peppers passed for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns. He only threw three interceptions. Running back Raveion Hargrove rushed for 857 yards and 12 touchdowns and the Rams top receiver was Caleb Johnson with 35 catches and 551 yards and 9 touchdowns.
It is the Trotwood-Madison defense that really shines, During the season the Rams allowed an average of 8.5 points per game. The Rams gave up 10 or more points in the season four times. The most points scored in a game against Trotwood-Madison is 21 by Wayne.
The Rams have limited opponents to an average of 76 rushing yards a game.
Senior linebacker Kobe Vinegar leads the Rams in tackles with 103 and Mikey’ion Hunter is the team leader in sacks with eight.
“They have a lot of speed and athleticism and we need to improve in those areas,” Frye said. “We want to get better each week and to achieve those goals we need to stay focused and focus on the things we can control.”
vs. Bishop Hartley (10-2)
Division IV Region 14
7 p.m. Friday, Bellefontaine AcuSport Stadium
Another week and another big test for Ottawa-Glandorf as the Titans take on defending state champion Bishop Hartley.
“We are happy to be in this spot,” Titan head coach Ken Schriner said. “It is pretty special for our kids because I don’t think the expectations were this high for us coming into the season and now we are playing for the regional championship.”
At the onset of the postseason, most considered the Titans a one-and-done when they drew Bellevue in the first round, but Ottawa-Glandorf’s second half comeback propelled it to a big win.
Undefeated Indian Lake was next on the Titans’ schedule and Ottawa-Glandorf came in as the underdog. But the Titans held off the Lakers for a 33-28 victory to advance to the Region 14 final.
Schiner said the reason his team has been successful is the team’s attitude and blue collar approach.
“We have good chemistry,” Schriner said. “The seniors have meshed well with the underclassmen and these come in each week ready to work hard. We have so many guys who stepped up last week.”
Schriner added that there were so many unsung heroes such as Jacob Dible who had a late game interception and Trent Basinger with his blanket coverage on the Lakers’ receivers. Not to mention quarterback Jay Kaufman’s tremendous effort as he rushed for 141 yards on 24 carries and scored three times and linebacker Logan Balbaugh’s usual outstanding outing that made him a first-team All-WBL selection.
Schriner also praised the efforts of the Titans’ offensive line led by seniors Brady Kuhlman at guard and Alex Hoehn at tackle.
Now come the Hawks.
Bishop Hartley’s lone two losses were to state-ranked Toledo Central Catholic in the first game of the season, 31-28, and state powerhouse Columbus St. Francis de Sales, 31-24.
As a team, the Hawks are averaging 44 points a game and giving up an average of 13.5 points a game. On the ground, the Hawks are averaging 393.8 yards a game.
Marquette Dixon has gained 2,019 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. The senior running back averages 9.5 yards a carry and 168.3 yards a game. In Bishop Hartley’s 44-7 win over Port Clinton, Dixon rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Jake Ruby has passed for 788 yards and 9 touchdowns.
“This is how it is this time of year,” said Schriner about playing good teams week after week in the postseason. “They are the real deal. They have outstanding athletes and good size and a heck of a tradition.”
Schriner said he knows his team will have its hand’s full but added that the Titans are focused on what they can do.
“At this time of the year you have to work on your craft,” Schriner said. “We have to play our best game and compete at a high level. We know we face an uphill battle but we have to bring it and hope things break our way on some plays.”
Christian Academy (12-0)
vs. Coldwater (11-1)
Division V Region 20
Saturday 7 p.m. Northmont Good Samaritan Stadium
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy comes into the game after defeating Milton-Union 45-28 Saturday. The Eagles come into the game averaging 43.4 points a game and giving up an average of 16.1 points a contest.
Danny Vanastky has passed for 2,311 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Eagles. Keasean Gamble is the Eagles leading rusher with 1,86 yards and 29 touchdowns. Isaac Carpenter has caught 37 balls for 617 yards and 6 touchdowns and teammate Mason Bernardt has caught 26 passes for 551 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defensively Justin Peck has 101 tackles on the year to lead the Eagles. Defensive back Cody Shiver has seven interceptions.
Coldwater overcame a 10-point deficit and blocked a late field goal to defeat Greeneview 27-24 in the second round of the playoffs. Neal Muhlenkamp finished with 74 yards rushing on six carries and Dylan Thobe completed 12 of 17 passing for 204 yards and also rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown. In their first two playoff games, Coldwater have outscored their opponents 74-37.
Marion Local (11-1)
vs. Mechanicsburg (12-0)
Division VI Region 24
7:30 p.m. Friday, Sidney Memorial Stadium
Mechanicsburg remained unbeaten after dispensing of Delphos Jefferson 56-20 to advance to the regional final. In the game, Indians quarterback Kaleb Romero was the driving force in the win after he rushed for 279 yards and four touchdowns.
Marion Local shut out St. Henry in its regional semifinal game, 22-0. The Flyers held the Redskins to 142 total yards. Duane Leugers had a pair of touchdown runs and finished with 92 yards on the ground. Jack Homan finished with 87 yards.
McComb (11-1) vs. Crestview (9-3)
Division VII Region 26
7 p.m. Saturday, Lima Spartan Stadium
McComb comes into the game after a dominating performance over Hicksville 42-0. In their first two playoff games, the Panthers have outscored their opponents 98-8.
During the regular season, McComb averaged 34 points per game and gave up 7.2 points per game. The Panthers lone loss came to Marion Local, 36-0, in week two. In four of their games, McComb shut out opponents four times.
Quarterback Malachi Abbot passed for 1,192 yards and 12 touchdowns. Abbot also ran for 237 yards and 4 touchdowns. Against Hicksville Abbot, rushed for 121 yards and was 7 of 9 for 143 yards and one touchdown. Jack Crouse led the Panthers in rushing during the regular season with 507 yards.
Crestview continued its tremendous run through the playoffs with a 28-7 win over Arlington in the regional semifinals.
First team All-Northwest Ohio quarterback Drew Kline finished with 164 yards and three touchdowns against the Red Devils. Senior running back Luke Geradot collected 147 yards.
In their two playoff games wins, the Knights have outscored their opponents 82-27.
The Crestview defense limited Arlington to 18 yards on the ground.
Fort Recovery (8-4)
vs. Minster (8-4)
Division VII Region 28
7 p.m. Saturday, Wapakoneta Harmon Field
Fort Recovery’s Will Homan continues his impressive playoff run as the junior running back ran for 226 yards on 23 carries to propel the Indians past Covington 42-14 in the regional semifinals.
In the Indians’ two playoff games, Homan has amassed 501 yards and six touchdowns.
The Indians have outscored their playoff opponents 100-35.
Minster defeated Upper Scioto Valley, 41-8, in its regional semifinal. Wildcat quarterback Jared Huelsman completed 11 of 19 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown and ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats have outscored their first two playoff opponents 74-22.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1