Defiance storms back from 17-point deficit to stun St. Marys 27-23

ST. MARYS — Defiance quarterback Will Batt refused to let his team lay down when the Bulldogs found themselves down by 17 points to St. Marys midway through the third quarter on Friday night.

“I got into my team,” said Batt, who rushed for three touchdowns. “I told them this is my senior year and we’re not losing this game. We’re winning out. I just got on them.”

The Bulldogs responded, handing St. Marys the latest gut-punching loss in an 0-7 season that’s had so many close calls.

Defiance scored all of its 27 points in the second half and stormed back from a 17-point deficit for a stunning 27-23 win over the Roughriders on Friday night at Skip Baughman Stadium on  Hall of Fame night. Batt escaped the pocket and scurried in untouched from 18 yards out with 1:35 left in the game to give Defiance its first lead of the game.

Defiance at St. Marys Football Photos:

“We had some seniors step up and start getting in people’s faces,” Defiance head coach Jerry Buti said. “Will Batt  stood out. He just wasn’t on the offense. He was giving the defense the business, so they stepped up their play. We didn’t take these guys lightly. When you’re 3-3 you don’t take anyone lightly. We know what a hornet’s nest it is down here.”

St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips had to console heartbroken players in the locker room in Cook Gymnasium after the latest setback.

“We’re looking for answers,” Phillips said. “There’s no magic. We’re being tested. Our kids are fighting really hard. I know it’s about wins and losses and that’s really important. But we have a lot of great kids. When we get through this  — not if, when we get through this — they’re going to be better for it.”

Trailing 23-20 with three minutes left in the game, Defiance stopped St. Marys on a fourth and one at the Defiance 33 yard line for a four-yard loss. The stout interior of the Defiance defensive line threw St. Marys quarterback Isaac Fitzgerald for a four-yard loss, setting up the Bulldog offense for the game-winning drive.

“That was the biggest stop of the game,” Buti said. “Our kids really got after them in there. It was all effort.”

St. Marys didn’t get the play blocked and missed a chance to run out the clock. “We had an 8 sweep called and it was there,” Phillips said. “Two guys ran in the opposite direction. We had the exact play we wanted. It was the play Patrick Obringer ran on his long run earlier in the drive. Two guys ran the opposite way and there was a collision in the backfield.”

Defiance then drove the 67 yards in less than a minute and a half. Batt hit Zach Hale on an acrobatic leaping catch over the perfect coverage of St. Mary’s Chase Roop for 25 yards to get down to the St. Marys 29.

“We made them bite up and then we went deep,” Batt said about the second half.

 On third and 10 from the 29, Batt connected with Colton Relyea on a 12-yard completion on the right sideline to move the chains to set up Batt’s dramatic game-winning run.

Buti and Defiance have beaten St. Marys five straight times and have won the last four times the teams have met at Skip Baughman Stadium.

Buti was mystified as to how St. Marys hasn’t won a game yet.

“They are unexplainable, how they’re 0-7,” Buti said. “You turn on the tape and you don’t think St. Marys is 0-7. I give them all the credit in the world and their coaches all the credit in the world for getting them to play that hard. It’s amazing.”

The Roughriders appeared to be in complete control of the game up 23-6 after Jared Knous scored on a slithering 19-yard touchdown with 5:10 left in the third quarter. Knous finished the game with 119 yards rushing on 13 carries with two touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 73 yards.

St. Marys attacked Defiance on the edges, away from their three big, strong interior linemen. “We kept running outside, tried to get them a little tired and then punch them up the middle once  in a while. They’re strong inside. That was our plan to run jet, similar to what we ran against Celina. It was working. We were moving the ball.”

St. Marys then got Defiance on a three-and-out and was going to have the ball and a three-possession lead. Instead, the punt hit a Roughrider on the shoulder pad and Defiance fell on the ball at the St. Marys 18-yard line.

Six plays later on a fourth and goal from the one yard line, Batt escaped the pocket and dove to the left pylon for a touchdown with 1:36 left in the third quarter. St. Marys’ lead was  cut down to 23-13.

Defiance’s Austin Hancock scored four plays into the fourth quarter on a 15-yard pass from Batt to draw to within 23-20 with 10:55 left in the game.

After St. Marys’ ensuing drive stalled, Defiance’s Wes Detter returned Quinn Zaerr’s punt 65 yards down to the St. Marys 10 yard line. But St. Marys defensive back Logan Maze on a third and goal from the 10 yard line made a shoestring catch at the four yard line for an interception to keep Defiance out of the end zone.

Taking over at their own four with 6:39 left, the Roughrider offense picked up an important first down on third and 10 when Patrick Obringer took the ball off right tackle and zoomed down the right side for 54 yards before the Defiance defensive backs chased him down at the Defiance 42 yard line. But St. Marys could not get another first down, being stumped on the gamechanging fourth and one.

“It’s not all X’s and O’s all the time,” Buti said. “Sometimes it’s effort.”

The Riders had control of the game for most of the way.

St. Marys led 10-0 at the half, punching in a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.

St. Marys converted a fourth and two at the Defiance 21-yard line. Fitzgerald faked the handoff and found Quinn Zaerr wide open on pop pass to the right center of the field. The big tight end carried two Bulldog defenders to the three yard line. Isaac Fitzgerald bulldozed his way in from two yards out on a third and goal with 13 seconds left in the half. It capped a no-huddle wing-t drive that went 72 yards in 13 plays in 3:45.

Clayton Trogdlon nailed a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter to put the Riders up 3-0 to cap St. Marys’ long, clock-eating first offensive drive. The Riders attacked the big Defiance front seven at the edges with sweeps, St. Marys drove 46 yards in 14 plays, keeping Defiance’s spread offense off the field for 6 minutes and 51 seconds.

St. Marys’ defense pitched a shutout in the first half holding Defiance to just 46 yards of total offense in the first half. St. Marys outgained Defiance 363-256 in total yards of offense.

The Roughriders had two big sacks of Batt in the first half. Dilllon Lininger chased him down early in the second quarter. Later in the second, Trent Wale corralled the 6-1,190-pound QB for a 15-yard sack that forced a fourth down and set up St. Marys late second quarter touchdown drive.

St. Marys opened the second half with a 41-yard Jared Knous touchdown run to go up 16-0.

Defiance responded with Batt’s first touchdown run of the game on a first and goal from the one-yard line that was set up by a 44-yard pass play to Detter. St. Marys led 16-6 with 9:09 left in the third quarter.

Defiance played without leading wideout Trey Guilliam.