Through all the highs of record-setting rushing nights and a redemptive win over Celina to the lows of disappointing second halves against Kenton, Defiance , Wapak and O-G — St. Marys has a chance to improve its record by four games over last season and get to the .500 mark to end the season it hosts Shawnee at Skip Baughman Stadium on Friday night.
“This is important for us, to close this out,” St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips said.
Phillips talked about a win springboarding to bigger and better things for a program that entered the season coming off a 1-9 disaster into a middle of the pack team that has challenged some of the WBL’s best.
It won’t be easy, though, as Shawnee is likely thinking along the same lines during a bounceback season of its own.
Shawnee won just two games last year — one of those a Week 9 over the Riders. Now both teams are eyeing the .500 mark.
And if recent history is any guide, Shawnee-St. Marys will be a close game.
A win would also reverse a trend of St. Marys teams struggling against Shawnee dating back to the final two years of Doug Frye’s stay with the Roughriders.
Shawnee has won the last four games in the series, three times by 10 points or less. The Indians escaped with a 14-7 last season in a defensive-minded affair between one-win teams.
Shawnee head coach Dick West is 5-7 in his 12 encounters against St. Marys, where the former Heidelberg College defensive coordinator and head coach was an assistant in the mid-1970s under Skip Baughman.
Shawnee played toe-to-toe with WBL frontrunner Wapakoneta last week, going into the four quarter down just 21-14. Wapak scored three touchdowns to pull away 41-14, but the Indians are a tough out.
Shawnee gave up 220 yards rushing to the power running game of Wapakoneta, but the Indians have been one of the top teams against the run all season (giving up a WBL third-best 154 yards per game on the ground).
Much like the Roughriders, opposing teams have attacked Shawnee through the air, where the Indians have faced the second most passing attempts against their defense in the WBL.
St. Marys held Van Wert quarterback Tyler Williams to 31 yards on 14 carries and stuffed fullback and leading rusher Lucas Sullivan to 44 yards on nine carries. St. Marys has allowed 100 yards to only one running back this season (O-G’s Tristan Parker ran for 177 yards in Week 7).
Running, Running: The Roughriders again ran the ball well last week, but it came sporadically. St. Marys senior tailback D.J. Manning will wrap up his historic senior season with 2,000 yards rushing in shouting distance. Manning enters the game with 1,813 yards, setting a new school record by eclipsing Bo Frye’s 1,809-yard season from 2004.
Manning rushed for 146 yards on 29 rushes, but was caught behind the line of scrimmage eight times while busting off two big runs of 40 yards or more. Tre Sherman ran for 71 yards and a touchdown on his only carry of the game.
Shawnee is led by standout running back Sam Altenbach, who was held in check last week with just 34 yards against the Redskins.
“We’re not physical enough to run the football all the time,” Shawnee head coach Dick West said after last week’s game. “We have to open it up and throw some.”
Doing that throwing is Seth Rosenbauer, who was 13-of-21 for 120 yards passing last week against the Redskins. Rosenbauer is 55-of-122 for 659 yards passing this season. Rosenbauer ran in a 17-yard touchdown for the Indians last week.
Best on Third: St. Marys averaged 11.3 yards per play on third downs last week, including a Manning 41-yard touchdown run and a 65-yard touchdown pass from quarterback T.J. Powell to tight end Jarett Taylor on third downs.
Shawnee managed just five first downs in the second half against Wapakoneta.
Linebacker HS: Shawnee’s long run of quality linebackers continues with Trey Runeals. Runeals is just 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but he again has recorded over 100 tackles this season. St. Marys safety Mitch Fowler leads the Roughriders with 62 stops. Steven Paulus has 59 tackles. John Phillipe leads the Riders with eight tackles for a loss.