Roughriders host Bath in a ground battle

From the city that builds tanks, there is Aaron Smith.

From the town that has manufactured rushing yards with assembly-line efficiency through the years, there is D.J. Manning.

For three weeks, the St. Marys football team has faced a barrage of throws from three spread teams.

Now for something completely different.

The two best rushing teams and the two best rushers in the Western Buckeye League should make for a hard-hitting league match-up at Skip Baughman Stadium on Friday night.

St. Marys entertains the Bath Wildcats this week, with a whole lot of running going on for both teams.

St. Marys leads the WBL at 316 rushing yards per game and has the league’s most prolific runner in D.J. Manning — who has already put up 675 yards rushing and six touchdowns in three weeks. Manning is a workhorse, as well. He has carried 16 more times this season than any other WBL running back. Manning has accounted for 45 of St. Marys’ 71 points.

The Riders’s new odd-front defense will get its first challenge from a power running team in 2011. St. Marys’ opponents have run the ball only 56 times in three games this fall.

Bath has no problem handing off to its powerful dynamo in the backfield.

Bath is the second-leading rushing team in the WBL, piling up 308 yards rushing per game. The Wildcats feature 5-foot-9, 230-pound running back Aaron Smith, who has 569 yards rushing and six touchdowns despite missing the first week of the season. Smith is averaging 8.8 yards per carry.

“We’re going to play a team that has a very good running back and a nice offensive line,” St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips said. “We have to gear it up.”

Smith rushed for 286 yards against Wapakoneta last Friday night, but it was the final two yards he couldn’t pick up late in the game that decided the contest. Bath went for two after scoring a late fourth-quarter touchdown and Smith was submarined on the conversion attempt in the 14-13 loss to the Redskins.

Third-year head coach Chris Miller has Bath pointed in the right direction. After a 2-8 first season in 2009, Miller led the Wildcats to a 5-5 season in 2010. Now Bath hopes to be a program in the mix at the top of the WBL six seasons after going 0-10.

Last week’s loss to Wapakoneta was a setback, but it also featured Bath staying step for step with the league’s toughest team.

“That was a great, physical high school football game,” Miller said. “I think it was everything it was billed to be.”

Bath quarterback Brad Davis is in his second year running the offense. Davis is counted on to manage games. He is 14-for-35 for 205 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

On defense, Bath senior linebacker Keaton Sullivan stands out. Sullivan, a 6-3, 200-pounder, is tied for the WBL lead with 53 tackles and is second in the league in interceptions with two this season.

St. Marys’ defense has been opportunistic against the steady hailstorm of passes thrown in its direction so far.

St. Marys leads the WBL with a plus-six turnover margin this season. No other team is better than plus-three. That includes seven interceptions by the Rider secondary.

Teams have been putting the ball in the air against the Riders more than any other team in the league.

After facing the WBL’s best two quarterbacks in Kenton’s Maty Mauk and Elida’s Reggie McAdams, St. Marys is giving up a WBL-worst 291.7 passing yards per game and has faced a league-most 102 passes. No other team in the WBL has faced more than 85 passes.

St. Marys defensive back Mitch Fowler leads the Roughriders with 23 tackles this fall.

Bath snapped a 10-game losing streak to St. Marys last season with a 26-6 win at Bath High School . St. Marys’ Mitch Newbauer scored to open the game, but Bath scored the next 26 points to run away with the game.

St. Marys will look to snap a four-game losing streak at Skip Baughman Stadium dating back to last year’s loss to Celina.

Bath has not beaten St. Marys in consecutive seasons since 1998 and 1999 — the first two seasons of Doug Frye’s stay in St. Marys. The 1999 Bath team is the last Wildcat squad to win the WBL title, as well.

Tale of the Tape

  SM Bath
Rushing 166-949 136-924
Yards per carry 5.7 6.8
Passing 8-27-87 14-35-205
TDs/INTs 2/3 2/2
Offensive Pts. Per Game 23.7 (9th) 34.0 (3rd)
Defensive Pts. Per Game 34.3 (8th) 18.3 (5th)
Def. Rushing Yds. Per Game 97.0 (1st) 146.0 (4th)
Def. Passing Yds Per Game 291.7 (10th) 102.3 (4th)
Turnover Margin +6 +3

Stat Leaders: Running Back Battle

Rushing Carries Yds YPC TDs
Bath: Aaron Smith 65 569 8.8 6
SM: D.J. Manning 100 675 6.8 6
Passing Att.-Comp. Yds TDs INTs
Bath: Brad Davis 14-35 205 2 2
SM: T.J. Powell 7-22 79 2 2
Tackles Tackles      
Bath: Keaton Sullivan 53      
SM: Mitch Fowler 23      

Overall Series:
St. Marys leads series 32-14
Last Played: 2010 (Bath won, 26-6)
Last St. Marys win: 2009
Longest Winning Streaks:
St. Marys won 10 straight games over the Wildcats from 1999-2010.

St. Marys Coaches vs. Bath
Mark Hollars                 1-1
Doug Frye                      9-2
Bob Priddy                    2-2
Skip Baughman           21-8