LIMA — St. Marys’ offense got a huge helping hand from its defense.
And once the Roughriders’ run-happy offense took command, it wasn’t giving it back any time soon.
St. Marys’ offense steamrolled to a 55-20 victory over Van Wert in the Division IV, Region 14 semifinals Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.
St. Marys (11-1) advances to the regional finals against Clear Fork, a 26-8 winner against Lorain Clearview, at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site to be named.
Van Wert ends its season 9-3.
St. Marys was led on the ground by running back Sean Perry, who finished with 24 carries for 235 yards. He had TD runs of 15, 5, 16 and 34 yards.
Perry also had a catch for 50 yards.
“I give all my credit to my line,” Perry said. “My guards and center were getting crazy drive.’’
St. Marys’ Ty Schlosser had 10 carries for 58 yards.
St. Marys ran for 390 yards on the night.
“We couldn’t get anything stopped with their run game,” Van Wert coach Keith Recker said. “We were hoping to keep them in the 30s. With them in the 50s, we’re probably not going to be able to play with that, with how good their defense is.’’
Van Wert quarterback Nate Place completed 19 of 33 for 244 yards. He threw one TD and had one interception.
Place also ran 16 times for 48 yards, with TD runs of 17 and 2 yards.
Van Wert’s Jake Hilleary had 13 carries for 57 yards.
St. Marys, with his pet Wing-T run attack, led 14-6 after the first quarter.
Van Wert then was rolling down field for a possible game-tying score.
The Cougars converted a fourth-and-16 from the St. Marys 35 when Place threw to Tanner Barnhart for 18 yards to take the ball to the Roughriders 17.
But St. Marys held on downs, thanks to Van Wert losing 4 yards on a fumble on second down.
St. Marys’ offense then marched 81 yards in eight plays for a score.
Perry burst loose with a 29-yard spinning run to take the ball to the Van Wert 36.
Four plays later, Perry turned the right corner for a 5-yard TD.
That pushed the St. Marys lead to 21-6 with 4:11 to go before halftime.
Then, on Van Wert’s next offensive play, Place threw the ball to the left flat.
The pass was picked off by St. Marys’ Carter Ballweg at the 33 and he returned it 33 yards and dove over the goal line for a TD.
“You could tell we have some experience from the playoff standpoint,” St. Marys coach Doug Frye said. “This group of seniors have been here three years in a row and we didn’t panic.’’
It marked Ballweg’s ninth interception of the year.
“That was really frustrating,” Recker said. “We could have been 14-14, but instead we went into half 35-6. When we lost that momentum, they are too good for that. We have up some big plays.’’
That gave St. Marys a 28-6 with 3:56 left in the half.
“We’re taught if there’s a chance, take it,” Perry said. “Because it can change the game just like that.’’
After another hold, St. Marys needed only four plays to go 60 yards for another score.
Perry took a screen pass from quarterback Braeden Dunlap. Perry made two fantastic spin moves after the catch and went 50 yards, to the Van Wert 4.
Two plays later, Dunlap bulled it over from the 1.
“He floated up so that kid wouldn’t catch it,” Perry said. “That kid was coming right for me so I had to put a move on him or I was going to get tackled for loss. I kept going from there. I only one remember one spin, but I could have spun more tonight.’’
That gave St. Marys a 35-6 lead with only 12 seconds left before halftime.
“Honestly, after he caught the ball after the first 5 yards, that isn’t anything to do with me,” Frye said with a laugh of Perry’s catch and run. “He’s a super kid.”
By halftime, Perry had 16 carries for 129 yards and one catch for 50 yards.
St. Marys scored first on a 15-yard TD run by Perry to make it 7-0 with 8:41 left in the first quarter.
St. Marys made it 14-0 on Dunlap’s 2-yard TD run with 4:45 left in the first quarter.
Van Wert got within 14-6 when Place turned the left corner for a 17-yard TD run with 2:23 left in the first quarter.
Van Wert was making its first playoff appearance since 2000, when it lost in the state championship game in double overtime to Canton Central Catholic.
“This means a lot,” Recker said. “Hopefully they can be proud of what they’ve done. They’ve had the best record at Van Wert since 1988.’’
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