KENTON — For 22 of the 24 minutes of Friday night’s first half, there were glimpses of St. Marys regaining its confidence on the Western Buckeye League stage against the league’s recent gold standard.
A defensive stop, an interception, and a perfect lob pass for a touchdown gave St. Marys a lead. And down just one point midway through the second quarter, St. Marys had a chance to take the lead going into the half with the ball inside the Wildcat five yard line.
But the air quickly left the bag in the final two minutes of the first half.and never found its way back in.
St. Marys put Kenton on its heels for much of the first half of Friday night’s Western Buckeye League opener, with the Roughriders picking off two Maty Mauk passes and getting into the Kenton red zone three times.
But a Wildcat defensive stand inside the 10-yard line and a Mauk engineered touchdown drive in the final minute of the first half served as a turning point in Kenton’s 40-7 win over St. Marys on a sweltering night at Robinson Field.
Kenton won its fourth straight against the Roughriders and now has taken nine of the last 12 meetings dating back to 2000.
St. Mary senior T.J. Powell’s second first half interception of Mauk came early in the second quarter when a ball went off the hands of a Kenton wide receiver. Powell returned the interception down to the Kenton 32-yard line.
St. Marys went to work, picking up a key first down on a fourth and 11 with a Powell to Sherman pass for 15 yards.
St. Marys got it down to a first and goal from the seven. Three plays later St. Marys had a fourth and goal from the two-yard line. But a delay of game penalty and a passing play blown up with interior line penetration on fourth down ended St. Marys’ drive.
The game turned quickly.
Mauk led Kenton on a 79-yard scoring drive that he capped with another touchdown pass to Bahr to make it 24-7.
The Riders never recovered.
St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips said that turn of events changed the entire game.
“There’s no doubt (that was the turning point). Good football teams overcome that,” Phillips said. “You’re going to have those plays. We were only down a point. What was there to let down about?”
Kenton scored the game’s final 40 points and coasted in the second half, with Mauk going 20-of-35 passing for 278 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Mauk also ran for 92 yards on five carries.
St. Marys made the three-time defending WBL champions sweat it out in the first half however, getting an opening drive sack from Neil Perry and Adam Neal to force a Kenton rarity — a punt.
The Rider secondary responded early, as well.
St. Marys picked off Mauk three times — twice in Kenton’s first four offensive possessions by T.J. Powell.
Powell’s first pick put St. Marys at the Kenton 41-yard line. Seven plays later on a third and seven from the Kenton 11-yard line, Powell lobbed a pass up for senior wide receiver Tre Sherman in the left front corner of the end zone. The big 6-2 wide out grabbed it for the opening score with 3:17 left in the first quarter.
Sherman ended the game with three catches for 40 yards.
Phillips said Sherman against Kenton’s corners was a match-up the Roughriders liked going into the night.
“We wanted that match-up all night,” Phillips said. “We felt our guy was better than their guys...We’re going to keep developing this passing game until we have a semblance of balance in this offense. I’d like it to be 70-30, but right now we’re about 95-5 in favor of the run.”
Kenton responded to St. Marys’ 7-0 lead with a seven-play scoring drive of its own, capped by a Mauk 11-yard touchdown strike to Matt Bahr. A two-point conversion gave Kenton an 8-7 lead after one quarter.
The Wildcats (2-0) then got its big defensive stop, touchdown and then cruised the rest of the way.
Kenton added a trio of scores in the third quarter to close things out.
Mauk threw a 44-yard touchdown to Bahr, ran in a score from 35 yards out and connected on a two-yard touchdown in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
St. Marys intercepted four Kenton passes. Powell had two, Sherman added one and Jared Knous had a late pick in the end zone.
“It’s all about consistency,” Phillips said. “When we’ve been in the right place, we took away some of the throws they wanted to make. We took them away early and then we allowed them to come back to them. That’s that lack of consistency that we have. Consistency comes from winning. We’ve got to develop.”
St. Marys had to earn every yard in the running game against a Kenton team that puts a defensive lineman over each offensive lineman.
A week after the most prolific running performance in school history, St. Marys senior tailback D.J. Manning ran it 25 times for 69 yards.
The Riders found success early with the Maryland I-Formation with two tight ends. But an injury kept St. Marys from running that formation after the first quarter. Phillips said the injury wasn’t the reason his team couldn’t run it as well in the second half, but that it was a factor.
“Kenton’s defense is underrated,” Phillips said. “They’re very well coordinated and do some stuff you don’t see often. You always hear about their gaudy offensive stats, but their defense is going to cause some people some problems.”
St. Marys 7
|St. Marys (1-1, 0-1)||7||0||0||0||7|
|Kenton (2-0, 1-0)||8||8||24||0||40|
SM — Tre Sherman 11-yard touchdown reception from T.J. Powell, Manning kick good, SM 7-0, 4:51 (7-play, 41-yard drive, T.O.P. 1:56).
K — Matt Bahr 11-yard touchdown reception from Maty Mauk, 2 pt. conversion good, K 8-7, 1:56 (7-play, 68-yard drive, T.O.P. 1:14).
K — Matt Bahr 20-yard touchdown reception from Mauk, 2-pt. conversion good, K 16-7, 0:57 (7-play, 85-yard drive, T.O.P. 1:06).
K — Matt Bahr 44-yard touchdown reception from Mauk, 2 pt. conversion good, K 24-7, 9:10 (3-play, 67-yard drive, T.O.P. 0:32).
K — Maty Mauk 35-yard touchdown run, 2-pt. conversion good, K 32-7, 3:07 (9-play, 84-yard drive, T.O.P. 4:22).
K — Sawmiller two-yard touchdown reception from Mauk, 2-pt. conversion good, K 40-7, 1:30 (3-play, 80-yard drive, T.O.P. 0:33).
Rushing 52-127 6-92
Passing 6-13 21-39
Passing Yds. 44 315
SM — D.J. Manning 25-69, T.J. Powell 3-3, Jared Knous 15-45, Brad Axe 2-2, Ryan Slife 3-3, Tyler Core 4-5.
K — Mauk 5-92, Logan Cook 1-0.
SM — T.J. Powell 5-10-36, TD; Tyler Core 1-3-8, INT. K — Maty Mauk 20-35-278-4 TDs, 3 INTs, Grant Sherman 1-4-37, INT
SM —Tre Sherman 3-40, TD.