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The St. Marys football team lived on the edge.
The Riders played it a little too close for comfort against an 0-8 team for three quarters, but St. Marys also found all the big plays it needed on the flanks of the Van Wert run defense to finally put away the Cougars.
After going to the half tied, St. Marys scored 20 unanswered points keyed by big plays in the second half to snap a three-game losing streak with a 34-14 win over a winless-but-scrappy Van Wert squad at Skip Baughman Stadium on Hall of Fame induction night on Friday.
St. Marys improved to 4-5 on the season, 3-5 in the Western Buckeye League. The Roughriders will now have a chance to finish the season at .500 in a home finale at Skip Baughman Stadium against Shawnee.
St. Marys senior tailback D.J. Manning became the school’s single-season rushing record holder with a 146 yard rushing night to go along with three touchdowns. Manning needed 141 yards coming into the evening to eclipse fullback Bo Frye’s 1,809-yard season back from 2004. Manning did the work in six fewer games, too. Manning now has 1,813 yards for the campaign.
For most of the night, the Rider running game was an all-or-nothing proposition.
St. Marys hit enough to profit.
Manning took pitch after pitch to get the edge of the stacked-up Van Wert 5-3 defense. That continuous attempt to flank the Cougars resulted in eight plays of negative yardage and big payoffs with a touchdown run of 41 yards along with a 46 yard run that set up another score.
“We just made a couple mistakes and —boom — there they go,” Van Wert head coach Bob Priest said. “We made a lot of plays tonight, but you get one breakdown and Manning is that good, he’s gonna go.”
When Manning’s tender ankle flared up for the third straight week in the second quarter, St. Marys’ Tre Sherman took over and made a big impact on his only carry of the game. Sherman found running room on right side and jetted his way for a 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
“Van Wert had a pretty good defensive scheme and they pretty much said that we weren’t going to run inside on them,” St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips said. “We have a couple of guys with speed, where if they make one mistake on the edge, we can take one to the house on them. We kept pressing them out there.”
The Cougars gave St. Marys all it could handle for more than a half.
St. Marys scored on its first offensive possession when Manning took a pitch and scampered 41 yards for a score with 6:13 left in the first quarter.
But any thought of Van Wert rolling over – a week after Wapakoneta put 77 points on the board against the Cougars — disappeared quickly when Bob Priest’s team responded with a 6-play 59-yard drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown scrambling, off-the cuff pass from sophomore quarterback Tyler Williams to sophomore wideout Terrance Branson for 19 yards to tie the game, 7-7.
Sherman put the Riders up 14-7 with 4:22 left in the second quarter on his 70-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars responded with a long 14-play drive that was extended by a fake punt run on fourth and eight inside Cougar territory, a fourth down conversion on a pass from Williams to Tyson Crone and Roughrider personal foul. Fullback Lucas Sullivan bowled in from 14-yards out for the tying score with just36 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
“They’ve got all the momentum there,” Phillips said. “Because we’re supposed to win this game. They came in and played hard.”
The Roughriders took the lead for good with an impressive drive to start the second half.
Manning ran for 46 yards on a pitch to the edge. Fullback Brad Sawmiller and D.J. Manning alternated runs inside the red zone, capped by a Manning two-yard touchdown run off the left side on a pitch to put St. Marys up 21-14 with 8:37 left in the third.
The score stayed that way going into the fourth quarter, with the teams trading punts and the Riders stopping Van Wert on its second fake punt attempt of the night.
Van Wert faked three punts on the night, converting twice.
St. Marys grabbed a 28-14 lead in the third quarter on a play-action 65-yard pass from quarterback T.J. Powell to tight end Jarett Taylor. Taylor caught the ball 20 yards downfield and then rumbled the rest of the way untouched for his second TD catch of the season.
Powell was effective in his limited throws, going 4-of-6 for 104 yards and the touchdown.
“We set them up for that pass,” Phillips said. “We knew we had it, but we were waiting for the right time. The coaches upstairs told me it looked good and we called it and executed the play. That really juiced up our kids.”
Taylor caught two passes for 86 yards and that score.
Manning pushed in from two yards out with 4:57 left in the game to put the Riders up 34-14.
St. Marys put a bow on the game by stopping the Cougars inside the five yard line with an interception in the game’s final minute. Brad Sawmiller stepped in front of a Williams pass for the game’s first and only turnover.
Van Wert falls to 0-9 and 0-8 in the WBL with the loss.
The Cougar offense had no problems moving the chains, gaining 21 first downs in the game, but Van Wert could not maintain a drive into the end zone in the second half.
“We put some drives together,” Priest said. “We were down here twice and didn’t get in. You’ve got to be able to finish those.”
St. Marys’ defense held Van Wert to under 3.5 yards per carry in the rushing game and harrassed quarterback Tyler Williams with pressure all night.
Priest noticed nose tackle Neal Perry making plays against his offense.
“That No. 11 from St. Marys is a heck of a player,” Priest said. “He was all over the field. We knew we had to throw the ball to keep their pressure off us.”
St. Marys will look to improve by four games on last season when it hosts Shawnee next Friday night.
“It’s important not only to get to .500, but also to set the tone for some of these younger kids for the future,” Phillips said. “We want to send a good senior class out with a win and set up these sophomore and junior classes up with momentum into next year where we can take this program up a notch.”
St. Marys 34
Van Wert 14
VW 7 7 0 0 — 14
SM 7 7 7 13 — 34
SM — D.J. Manning 41-yard touchdown run, Jarett Taylor PAT good, SM 7-0, 6:13 (7-play, 79-yard drive, T.O.P. 3:32).
VW — Terrance Branson 19-yard touchdown reception from Tyler Williams, Autin Reichert PAT good, 7-7, 3:44 (6-play, 59-yard drive, T.O.P. 2:29).
SM — Tre Sherman 70-yard touchdown run, Taylor PAT good, SM 14-7, 4:27 (2-play, 68-yard drive, T.O.P. 0:39).
VW — Lucas Sullivan 14-yard touchdown run, Reicher PAT good, 14-14, 0:36 (14-play, 57-yard drive, T.O.P. 3:51).
SM — Manning 2-yard touchdown run, Taylor PAT good, SM21-14, 8:37 (7-play, 65-yard drive, T.O.P. 3:27).
SM — Jarett Taylor 44-yard touchdown reception from T.J. Powell, Taylor PAT good, SM28-14, 9:31 (5-play, 86-yard drive, T.O.P. 2:16).
SM — Manning 2-yard touchdown run, PAT failed, SM34-14, 4:57 (5-play, 15-yard drive, T.O.P. 2:33).
St. Marys — T.J. Powell 4-6-107 yards, TD.
Van Wert – Tyler Williams 13-27-163, TD, INT.
St. Marys — D.J. Manning 29-148, 3TDs; T.J. Powell 6-(-)9; Tre Sherman 1-70, TD; Brad Sawmiller 4-9; Steven Paulus 1-4.
Van Wert — Tyler Williams 14-31; Lucas Sullivan 9-44, TD; Caleb Lloyd 3-1; Mason Krugh 2-7; Luke Stevens 1-10; Terrance Branson 2-10.
St. Marys — Jarett Taylor 2-86, TD; Tre Sherman 2-18.
Van Wert — Terrance Branson 3-39, TD; Caleb Lloyd 2-22; Lucas Sullivan 2-29; Tyson Crone 6-69.
TEAM STATISTICS SM VW
First Downs 11 18
Rushing 41-240 31-103
Passing 4-6-107 13-27-163
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties 4-52 2-25
Time of Possession 25:23 22:37
Third Downs 7-13 4-13
Fourth Downs 1-1 2-5
Avg. Drive start Own 37 Own 30
Red Zone Att.- TDs 2-2 3-2