Around the WBL: A Look at Tonight's Games

St. Marys at Defiance

Both St. Marys (0-5, 0-4 WBL) and Defiance (1-4, 1-3 WBL) open the second half of the season looking to salvage campaigns that started off roughly in the first five games.

Defiance is 1-4, with its lone win coming against Bath in Week 2. The Bulldogs’ defense is the biggest culprit for the struggles. Defiance is giving up a league-worst 43.6 points per game and 495 yards of offense per game. Defiance gives up 7.9 yards per carry and have surrendered 18 rushing touchdowns.

St. Marys hopes to exploit that with the rushing game it had in the first quarter of last week’s 47-7 loss to Celina. The Roughriders  were running the ball well before the thunderstorm delayed the game two hours. Trent Wale busted off right tackle for a 48-yard touchdown. After the break, the Riders couldn’t find the same offensive chemistry.

It’s not something St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips could explain.

“They didn’t change their defense,” Phillips said. “We saw them line their defense up against Wapakoneta with two tight ends and we felt they had a couple bubbles there and that’s what we took advantage early on. We were picking up good yardage and then we just weren’t getting them blocked up front.”

Defiance  quarterback Joe Keween is 77 of 161 (47.8 percent) for 1,077 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

Defiance runs for just 2.4 yards per carry, but the Bulldogs do it to keep defenses honest. The Bulldogs have run 181 run plays and 163 pass plays. That’s second only to Kenton in number of pass attempts in the WBL this season.

St. Marys’ defense couldn’t keep up with the quick-pace offense of the Celina Bulldogs’ pass-first spread. Braden Billger passed for 311 yards and six touchdowns and wideout Braelen Bader had 11 catches for 236 yards and four touchdowns. This week will be a challenge more like the one the Riders faced against Bath — a spread system that is balanced.

“They’ll line up with a tight end and an unbalanced line and run the ball at you and have some counters while still going spread set and throwing the ball down the field. That puts some stress on you defensively. You have to practice for two different offense. That comes down to fundamentals for us, making sure we’re lined up right and making some downfield tackling, which has been very poor at times.”

St. Marys’ Adam Brown has had some big tackling nights over the past two weeks. After collecting 17 tackles against Bath, Brown added nine more last Friday. Brown leads St. Marys with 43 tackles. Jarrett Taylor has 41 stops and a team-high two sacks.

O-G (5-0, 4-0 WBL) at Wapak (3-2, 2-2 WBL)
The Titans appear to be the team to beat midway through the season after its dismantling of Kenton last Friday.  O-G’s massive offensive line cleared out space for 395 yards rushing against the Wildcats in the 52-16 win. O-G has the league’s best offense (49.2 ppg) and the league’s second-best defense (16.6 ppg).

This week brings a test against a Wapakoneta team that got back on the winning track with a 24-10 win over Defiance. Wapakoneta is in 13th place in Division II, Region 8 — four spots in back of ninth-place Celina. Wapak held Defiance to just 50 yards rushing last week.

Wapak head coach Doug Frye is now calling the plays after his offensive coordinator resigned after the Elida game. Frye is working in the pass more and more as the season goes along with quarterback Kyle Gibson leading the way. Gibson passed for 259 yards and rushed for 99 yards last week.  “With all the changes we have had, I am getting used to the spread part and we are airing it out now,” Frye said. to the Wapakoneta Daily News’ Bill Laney. “We also took what they gave us. We took advantage what they were being given and what we could do effectively.”

Elida (5-0, 4-0 WBL) at Kenton (3-2, 3-1 WBL)

In an era of explosive offenses, Elida’s defense giving up 8.8 points per game is an impressive number. Elida hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game this season.  But that stingy defense will get a test when a grumpy Kenton team comes to town. Ottawa-Glandorf manhandled the Wildcats 52-16 a week after Kenton had set a pair of state passing records. Kenton quarterback Grant Sherman was 5 of 20 passing in the second half. Kenton did not score in the second half.

Bath (3-2, 2-2 WBL) at Shawnee (1-4, 1-3 WBL)

Bath quarterback Doug Sanders keeps running through WBL defenses. Sanders ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-7 win over Van Wert last week. Could Shawnee’s schedule for the first six weeks of the season get anymore difficult? It would be tough. Shawnee had the misfortune of playing O-G, Kenton and Elida in a row the last three weeks. It gets no easier with games against 3-2 Bath and 4-1 Celina looming.

Van Wert (0-5, 0-4 WBL) at Celina (4-1, 3-1 WBL)

The rain didn’t slow down the Celina passing attack. The Bulldog scored 41 straight points after a two-hour weather delay against rival St. Marys. Celina wideout Braelen Bader seemed to get better the more it rained. The sophomore had 238 yards receiving and tied a Celina record with four touchdown receptions from quarterback Braden Billger. The Bulldogs are a two-point loss to WBL frontrunner O-G away from being perfect this season and now have the playoffs in view. The Bulldogs are one spot out of  a playoff spot in ninth place of Division II’s Region 8. Van Wert is winless after a 33-7 loss to Bath. The Cougars are averaging a WBL-worst 5.4 points per game.  Van Wert has lost 15 straight games dating back to Week 10 of the 2010 season.