In this part of Ohio, there’s nothing quite like the St. Marys-Celina football rivalry.
Heated and contentious, a rivalry exists between two towns close in proximity and linked by a lake they can’t even agree on what to call. The result is two teams pouring a season’s worth of emotion into one game.
St. Marys (2-2, 1-2 WBL) will travel to Celina (0-4, 0-3 WBL) to face its rival for the 93rd time, hoping to regain the upper hand in a rivalry of which it lost control for the first time in 12 years last fall.
St. Marys first-year head coach Greg Phillips hopes to harness that energy and not allow it to hinder his team this week.
“I told the kids that the game will take care of itself as far as the emotion goes,” said Phillips, who will be coaching in his first St. Marys-Celina game. “There’s no need to be emotional on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Get ready for the game. Go out and work. It will come as Friday night builds, at 7:30. As a coach, motivation is the easiest thing for this game. You just have to make sure the players are more focused on the game than the emotion of who it is they’re playing.”
Celina’s 0-4 start is in almost direct contrast to the quick 5-1 start it got a season ago, fueled partially by a 26-25 overtime win against the Roughriders.
The Bulldogs have three close losses on the resume. Last week, the Bulldogs lost to a physical Wapakoneta squad, 41-20.
Much of the damage was self-inflicted.
Celina fumbled the ball twice inside the Wapakoneta three-yard line after trailing, 34-13.
The Bulldogs are minus-three in turnover margin this fall.
Instead, the Bulldogs lost by three touchdowns and are looking to beat St. Marys to rescue a season quickly heading southward. But in a rivalry game and looking at the record, Phillips has warned his team against underestimating Celina.
“They’re a good team,” Phillips said. “There’s no reason they shouldn’t be 2-2, 3-1, heck maybe even 4-0. We have to throw the records out. But kids are kids. They look at records. That doesn’t mean anything. They’re going to have the emotion of this week, as well. We need to focus on our team and not focus on the other team.”
The Bulldogs certainly can move the ball down the field.
Junior quarterback Braden Billger is one of the league’s best. Billger is 103-of-165 for 1,117 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
When asked to compare this Celina spread to the offenses St. Marys faced against Kenton and Elida, Phillips said where they aren’t as talented as Maty Mauk and Reggie McAdams at the skill positions, the Bulldogs are balanced and don’t make mistakes in the passing game.
“Obviously, Billger isn’t quite as good as Maty Mauk, but he’s a good young quarterback,” Phillips said. “He’s got time to develop. He throws a good ball and makes good reads. He doesn’t throw interceptions. When they’re throwing the ball 40 times like they do and he isn’t throwing interceptions, that’s a smart, heady kid.”
Billger, a 165-pound junior, spreads the wealth evenly, with four Celina wideouts with 199 or more yards receiving already. Braelen Bader has 25 catches for 256 yards and two scores, Craig Welker has 21 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns and Derek Waterman has 25 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’re a good mix,” Phillips said.
Billger lit up Wapakoneta for 302 yards and three touchdowns passing last week.
Billger is joined in the backfield by running back Zach Hembree, who has rushed for 354 yards on 84 carries and three touchdowns. Hembree also has 14 catches for 199 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
But the Bulldogs have struggled mightily on defense, surrendering a WBL ninth-worst 37 points per game.
Jalen Knous, a 245-pound junior linebacker, leads the team with 27 tackles. Oppenents have rushed for more than 1,100 yards this season against the Dogs, including 372 yards on the ground by Wapak last week.
Opposing offenses are 26-of-52 passing for 411 yards against the Bulldogs, who have relinquished four passing touchdowns and intercepted three passes.
In contrast to Celina’s winless start , St. Marys’ fortunes took a turn for the best a week ago.
St. Marys stonewalled powerful Bath running back Aaron Smith and its offense exploded in a 36-19 win over the Wildcats last Friday.
The St. Marys defense stuffed Smith for 74 yards on 23 carries after he had run roughshod over Wapakoneta and Defiance in Weeks 2 and 3 of the season.
The offense broke out with another big game from tailback D.J. Manning, who eclipsed the 200-yard mark rushing for the third time this season with 229 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Manning has run for 904 yards in four weeks with nine touchdowns.
St. Marys scored first last week, continuing a season-long trend.
St. Marys has gotten off to fast starts in all four of its games. The Roughriders have scored first in the first quarter — three of them long touchdown runs by Manning.
T.J. Powell turned in a career night last week, throwing for 150 yards and two touchdowns, connecting three times with wide receiver Tre Sherman for 83 yards and hitting tight end Jarett Taylor twice for 60 yards and a score.
“Just like last week, we’re going to pick and choose our spots to throw the ball,” Phillips said. “Ideally I’d like to be throwing it 15 times per game and completing about 10 or 11 of those. We have plays we think will benefit us against them.”
St. Marys is now 2-2 and 1-2 in the WBL and has scored 107 points — the exact amount the entire Riders scored in the entire 2010 season — heading into first-year head coach Greg Phillips first encounter in the St. Marys-Celina rivalry.
|Turnover Margin||+7 (2nd)||-3 (7th)|
|Rushing Defense (Yds, WBL Rank)||102.8 (1st)||282.0 (10th)|
|Passing Defense (Yds, WBL Rank)||1032 (9th)||411 (3rd)|
|Defensive Scoring||30.5 (7th)||37.0 (9th)|
|Yds. Per Punt||40.0||
Players to Watch
|C: Braden Billger||103||165||1,117||10-4|
|SM: T.J. Powell||13||32||228||4-2|
|C: Zach Hembree||84||354||4.2||3|
|SM: D.J. Manning||135||904||6.7||9|
|C: Braelen Bader||25||256||10.2||2|
|SM: Tre Sherman||6||135||22.5||2|
St. Marys vs. Celina Game Notes
Overall Series: St. Marys leads series 60-26-6
Last Played: 2010 (Celina won, 26-25 in OT)
Last St. Marys win: 2009
Longest Winning Streak: St. Marys won 12 straight games (and the first 12 meetings) over the Bulldogs from 1923 to 1930. St. Marys won 11 straight from 1999-2009.
Celina at a Glance
Division III, Region 10
Head Coach: Jared Rolfes, 4th Season
Record at School: 9-25
2010 Record: 6-4, 6-3 in the WBL
St. Marys Coaches vs. Celina (Since 1958)
Mark Hollars 1-1
Doug Frye 10-1
Bob Priddy 1-3
Skip Baughman 24-10-2
St. Marys vs. Celina by Decade: