WAPAKONETA – Not many coaches are talking or even thinking about league titles in week two. In fact, most coaches are more concerned about seeing improvements and adjustments from week one to week two as teams settle into the season.
St. Marys and Wapakoneta are no exception as both Rider head coach Doug Frye and Redskin head coach Travis Moyer want to see improvement day in and day out and game in and game out. However, they also understand what is on the line in the early season matchup between these two rivals Friday night.
“We have the upmost respect for St. Marys,” Moyer said. “This is step No. 1 to goal No. 1 of winning the WBL championship. It is also important for the fact that they are in our region this year from a playoff standpoint and it’s a backyard rivalry which is important to our community. We understand the importance of this football game.”
Last year, this game was the final regular season contest and Wapakoneta edged St. Marys on a late field goals to clinch a share of the Western Buckeye League. In the past five years, the Riders own a 3-2 edge.
But this year the game is being played in week two and both coaches agree that the winner puts themselves in the driver’s seat for the league crown in the early going. But they also understand that this is only week two and a lot of different things can happen in the final eight weeks of the season.
“Obviously the team that wins on Friday is going to be in the driver’s seat so to speak,” Moyer said. “Regardless of who you are playing you want to get off to a good start in the league so it is important from that aspect but it is important to also understand that if things don’t go well that there is a lot of season left.”
Frye said there are two things you can’t control and that is the weather and the schedule so he is taking the big game in stride and is fully aware of the implications of this game.
“I don’t put much stock in it as far as controlling it (the schedule) and it is what it is,” Frye said. “That is who we play this week and we will have to prepare for them and prepare our team. We have a lot respect of Wapakoneta as we do for O-G the next week.
”It is a grinder of a WBL schedule so yes the winner of the game is in the driver’s seat for one week and then you are right back at it….We really try to just get better every week and we have a lot of things to clean up from week one and there are not enough days in the week to take care of that so we are working hard to get there.”
Both teams come into the game with season opening wins. Wapakoneta defeated Bellefontaine 28-0 and St. Marys downed Sidney 25-22.
The two teams came into the season with new quarterbacks and in St. Marys case a couple of new quarterbacks as they used two signal callers against Sidney and Frye added that he may use a third. Against Sidney, Dylan Trogdlon got the start but was relived at halftime by sophomore Gavin Reineke.
“We used two quarterbacks in the ballgame and we will go into any game with three different quarterbacks,” Frye said. “The positive is we are playing one kid on both sides of the ball right now and that kid comes in and out so basically we are in a two-platoon situation right now.”
Frye added that he felt secure with any one of the trio of quarterbacks he puts behind center and it could change from game to game because each of them brings a different skill set to the offense.
“They offer different dynamics and we are still trying to figure out which one we want to consider going with or we may never do that and stay with all three throughout the year.”
Frye said he would like to see more consistency from his offense and part of it is continuing to find the skill level of each of his quarterback and adapting to the team.
Defensively, Frye said the Riders were put in some tough situation at times but came through when it counted in stopping a fleet-footed Sidney squad.
“It is obviously good to get off to a winning start and we didn’t play as clean or as well as we hoped to but we managed to get a win and sometimes games like that can be a character builder ballgame and our kids continued to preserve.”
While St. Marys rallied for the win, Wapakoneta sustained a consistent ground attack and the Redskin defense shut down the Chieftains’ offense.
Moyer said it was an uneven first game but that was to be expected.
“By no means did we play a perfect game but we found a way to win,” Moyer said. “There is always that uncertainty in game No. 1 because you don’t know how guys are going to react in terms of being under the Friday night lights but our team settled down and played exceptionally hard which we are proud of.”
The Redskins racked up 393 yards on the ground against Bellefontaine. A trio of runners eclipsed the 100-yard barrier. Reed Merricle, the new Redskins quarterback, gained 131 yards on 14 carries and Evan Kaeck bulled his way to 109 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns. Connor McDonald, who had a 79-yard run to score Wapakoneta’s first touchdown of the season, finished 100 yards on six carries.
“For the first time under the center and under the lights we thought he (Merricle) kept his composure and provided that stability we needed at that position and he did an exceptionally good job,” Moyer said. “We need for him to continue to grow as a quarterback.”
Moyer added that there are 10 other guys around him and if they do their job to the best of their ability it will only help in his progress and points out that this is the fifth quarterback he has started in his six years of coaching so they understand how to handle the transition from signal caller to signal caller.
The Redskins did not attempt a pass but Moyer said his team is prepared to pass if need be against St. Marys.
“You look at last week and we rushed for 393 yards and passed for zero and a lot of people are going to say how can you be balanced and if you look at us we had a lot of different ball carriers involved and we truly believe the more people involved in our offense that we are harder to defend,” Moyer said. “I am a true believer is whatever it takes to win a football game and if need to throw the ball 30 times we will do that.”
Moyer said priority No. 1 is stopping the Roughriders’ running game. St. Marys produced 255 yards on the ground with Ty Schlosser gaining 133 yards on 24 carries.
“That is what they do (run) and they do it exceptionally well and that is a huge challenge for our defense,” Moyer said. “We are going to have to do a good job on early downs and putting them behind the chains and then getting off the field on third down. Just because you a good job on first and second down does not guarantee you are getting off the field.”
Like Moyer, Frye said he knows stopping Wapakoneta’s rushing attack is imperative if they are going to have a shot at the win.
“They have three gifted athletes in Merricle, Kaeck and Connor McDonald so we are going to have to play good team defense to have an opportunity and we understand the opportunity for them to throw the ball is there. Again we are working on our team defense.”