ST. MARYS — With one starter back on offense and three on defense, St. Marys came into the season with a number of unanswered questions and a lot of inexperienced players.
But after winning the Western Buckeye league crown with an unblemished 9-0 mark and posting a convincing 48-8 win over Highland in the first round of the playoffs, the Roughriders are playing like a veteran squad.
“We have continued to improve and that will be the key the rest of the way,” St. Marys head coach Doug Frye said as his team prepares to face an unbeaten Shelby squad at Marion Harding Ohio Health Field at Harding Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Frye said he was encouraged by his team’s opening postseason win and pointed to how well the defense did against Highland. Against the Scots, St. Marys held Highland to 186 total yards.
Offensively, St. Marys rolled up 377 total yards and a new wrinkle to the St. Marys offense was the Roughriders’ ability to effectively pass the ball. Roughrider Colin Clements was 6 of 11 for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
“We did a lot of things differently offensively,” Frye said. “We threw a lot of passes which for us is different. I thought our kids were prepared and ready to play.”
Frye added that passing was another dimension to his offense he wanted to incorporate and were given the luxury to work on it when they opened up a lead on Highland. At halftime, the Roughriders led 41-0.
One of the reasons Frye said the team has performed so well was because members of this year’s team got a small taste of what the playoffs were like from the sidelines waiting their chance last year and now that they are playing, they are looking to continue the program’s winning tradition.
“The thing I want to point out is that this group of seniors were eighth-graders before I came back and they didn’t know if they were going to have a team,” said Frye who added that the 12 players on that team recruited players to field a team and now five years later they are making St. Marys proud. “This group has been with us all four years and they reflect the turnaround in that four-year period.”
The Whippets come into their game against St. Marys averaging 55.4 points a game and giving up a paltry 6.7 points a contest. Shelby has not given up 14 or more points in any of its games this year and have posted three shutouts.
In their first playoff game against Wauseon, Whippets quarterback Brennan Armstrong was 13 of 22 for 220 yards and three touchdowns. For the year, Armstrong has passed for 1,519 yards and 24 touchdowns with two interceptions. On the ground he had 57 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown and for the season he has amassed 713 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Frye said that Armstrong, who has been approached by Division I college teams, is probably a better safety than he is a quarterback.
Running back Shorty Brooks gained 168 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns. Brooks has gained 894 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season. Receiver Carter Brooks leads the team with 876 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“They have had 11 running clocks in the 11 games they have played,” Frye said. “They are pretty much a senior dominated team that made the regional finals last year and most of that team returned. This by far is the best team we will face this year.”
Frye said the key to beating a powerhouse like Shelby is to take care of the football and curtail the mistakes. He added that St. Marys’ Wing-T offense will be something Shelby has not faced this year.
“We are a different dynamic than they have seen all season because mostly they have been playing spread football teams,” Frye said. “It will be interesting to see how the match up goes.”