After opening the season 1-2, many might have thought St. Marys season might turn into a bust.
But that was not the case. In fact, the Roughriders have not lost since week three and then proceeded to win their first playoff game last week against Franklin and are now preparing for their second round matchup against Trotwood-Madison who defeated Western Buckeye League foe Wapakoneta last Friday night.
St. Marys head coach Doug Frye said it was simply getting back to basics, overcoming some key injury and improvements from week to week on both sides of the ball.
Despite the early losses, Frye knew he had a veteran and talented team and felt his team would start producing victories.
“We have had a lot of success the past three seasons so early on the kids weren’t happy where we are at with the lack of success but there was never any thought or division or anything like that and I assured them if you continue to do the things that are necessary we will get better as the year goes on,” Frye said.
Injuries played a role early on.
“We have fought many injuries this year,” Frye said. “We ended up losing five kids to key injuries throughout the year. That has been an issue for us all year. And we had a tough schedule at the beginning of the year.
Frye added that he is not using injuries as an excuse and also pointed out the two losses were to two teams that made the playoffs and they could have easily been the victors in those two contests. In week two, St. Marys lost to Wapakoneta in overtime and then lost a tough 30-27 decision to Ottawa-Glandorf.
Two key injuries on the offense were to Ty Schlosser, who was a starting fullback and linbacker, and Jason Orton, the starting offensive tackle.
“Early on we lost those guys playing Wapak and O-G so we were doing some shuflling a little and playing a month long road schedule,” Frye said. “Unfortunately we came away with a couple of tight losses against some very good football team.”
Frye added that since game four he said the team has settled in their positions and roles.
Finding stability at quarterback with Kurt Bubp is one factor in the team’s offensive success. Bubp, who did not start in week one due to an arm injury, came in week three against Ottawa-Glandorf and replaced Dylan Trogdlin. Even though the Riders fell short against the Titans, Bubp tossed three touchdowns and added another dimension to the offense.
“At one time or another from July we have had four different quarterbacks trying to find the right mesh,” Frye said. “He (Bupb) was playing early but in the receiver role but from game four on he has been a stabilizing force for us there. The other guys were doing an adequate job but Kurt who didn’t have any varsity time, was our jv quarterback. He has had some time in our system and has done a great job since we have put him in there.”
Even though Bupb provides a passing element, the Riders remain a running team and have used a host of backs to gain yardage. It has been a true running back by committee approach as no St. Marys back ranks in the top 10 in the WBL in rushing. However, the Riders were second in the WBL in total rushing offense, averaging 253.7 yards a contest.
Frye said the Riders are using three different fullbacks. Freshman Aiden Hinkle and Ross Henschen and Hunter Fraley have all contributed when called on.
The Riders are using up to five different halfbacks through the year. Trodglin, Ethan Wedding has all sen action but it has been Ty Howell who has stood out Frye said and is their featured back.
In the eight game winning streak, the Roughriders have been averaging 35 points a game and had scored 24 or more points up until the 14-10 win over Franklin in the playoffs.
Frye has seen steady improvements on the offensive line that has been a top priority.
Defensively, Frye credits the defensive coaching staff for making adjustments due to injuries.
“I give a lot of credit to our defensive staff,” Frye said. “Coach Yahl, our defensive coordinator, and Coach Patterson, our defensive lineman, who was my defensive coordinator at Wapakoneta, along with Coach Knous and coach Reems adapting the defense to the players we have.”
In the eight game win streak, St. Marys gave up an average of 12.4 points a game. In seven of those eight games, the Riders limited opponents to 14 points or less. The lone team to score more was Kenton where the pass happy Wildcats put up 34 points.
The Riders are coming off a big 14-10 win in their opening round playoff game against Franklin and the defense and special teams were instrumental in the wise. Trotwood-Madision, also advance thanks to some solid defense and two important special teams plays played a key role in the Rams’ win over Wapakoneta.
Frey, who is familiar with Trotwood-Madison having faced them in the past in the postseason, added that he expects another tough contest.
“They are well coached. They are very athletic and they are a team that no matter what the situation is in a ball game they all of sudden can strike and be in the end zone,” Frye said. “They are hard-nosed. We are going to be fundamentally sound and do the little things well.
“You have to win the special teams battle when you play Trotwood and that is what I told our players and I told them going into the playoffs.”