If the St. Marys defense can keep Elida from getting past the first level of its defense, head coach Greg Phillips feels good about his team’s chances this week at home against quarerback Logan Alexander and Elida’s balanced spread offense.
“Missed tackles are the no. 1 thing,” Phillips said after practice on Tuesday. “We chart the missed tackles. Our goal is 10 or less. If we can do that we feel we can win the game. Sidney and Shawnee, we were around the 12 or 13 range. Against Shawnee seven of them came on two plays and one of them was the long touchdown run. I could care less who leads our team in tackles. I’m worried about as a team how many do we miss.”
St. Marys’ defense had to face the prolific passing game of quarterback Grant Sherman and wide receiver Justin Sawiller last week in a 66-14 loss to Kenton. This week’s challenge is more balanced from the Bulldogs led by second-year quarterback Alexander, who has passed for 582 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
“Their quarterback is a nice dual purpose guy, kind of like (Jordan Fox) at Sidney we saw earlier this season, and he runs the ball well and has a nice arm,” Phillips said. “Anytime you’re facing a spread like that, you have to be lined up correctly so you don’t give up the big play and you have to make open field tackles.”
Elida’s run defense was porous against a fired up Wapakoneta offensive line a week ago. The Redskins walloped Elida 42-0 and put up more than 400 yards rushing against a defense that had to replace eight starters from 2012 — including current Ohio Bobcat linebacker Quentin Pohling.
Wapakoneta’s Wapak junior Keaton Metz gained 177 yards on 18 attempts with three touchdowns and senior halfback Zach Schmerge added 151 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
The Riders hope to have the same sort of success on the ground.
“We sure hope so,” Phillips said. “ Wapak has a nice offensive line and hard-running fullback. We had to take a look at how they attacked Elida and see what plays we have that are similar. There are some. Wapak had a gameplan against them and you’d better believe we’re taking that apart to see what advantages we have.”
But Phillips thinks Elida will be playing at its peak when it invades Skip Baughman Stadium.
“With their competitive nature and being a pretty good program the last three or four years, so I expect them to come in here and for them to play their best,” Phillips said. “We don’t expect anything less.”
Phillips has talked about his team not playing consistently so far this season. When asked how a team can improve on that, he talked about the style of practices.
“We try to get stuff at high reps so the game slows down,” Phillips said. “We try to get two to three plays per minute. If one guy messes up on a play, you try to get him coached up quickly so you can keep the practice moving. You want to get as many reps as you can.”
St. Marys safety Jared Knous has three interceptions in three games this season, including one of the two interceptions the Riders had against Sherman a week ago.
“He’s done a tremendous job,” Phillips said. “He played corner last year. He’s the fastest guy we’ve got and pound-for-pound probably the strongest guy we’ve got. So we put him back in the middle at free safety and turned him loose and he’s done a good job and is a consistent tackler in the open field.”
Elida has won the last three meetings between the schools, including last season’s 27-3 win that was finished up on Saturday after lightning postponed the game with 25 minutes left on Friday night at Kraft Stadium.
Before those three wins, Elida had only beaten St. Marys four times in series history.