Around the WBL: Riders host Defiance on Homecoming

Defiance at St. Marys

Overall Series: St. Marys leads series 26-18
Last Played: 2010
(Defiance won 13-7)
Last St. Marys win: 2008
Longest Winning Streak:  Defiance has won four of the last five meetings against St. Marys, including last year’s 38-21 win at Skip Baughman Stadium.

History warns the St. Marys football team against underestimating the Defiance Bulldogs.

On paper, the Homecoming match-up at Skip Baughman Stadium looks like teams headed in opposite directions.

Defiance slipped under .500 with a 21-7 loss to Wapakoneta last week and seemed overmatched by the physical running game of the Redskins.  Defiance has lost three of its last four games while scoring seven points in each of the last two losses.

St. Marys’ running game went wild in a 32-20 win over rival Celina a week ago in an emotional victory.

But — again — history shows a series between the Riders and Bulldogs of tight games since Jerry Buti took over at Defiance in 1991.

St. Marys has lost four of five games to the Bulldogs, including an ugly 13-7 contest a season ago matching up teams that both went 1-9. That game was decided on a second quarter fumble return for a score. Two seasons ago the Bulldogs spoiled homecoming 38-21 to hand the Riders their second loss of the 2009 campaign.

Defiance has also won the last two games contested at Baughman Stadium.

Defiance’s Nick Lopez won’t make things easy for a St. Marys team in search of its third straight win, either.

Lopez rushed for 144 yards per game and eight touchdowns through the season’s first four weeks before Wapakoneta’s defense stumped him for 68 yards on 27 carries last week.

Lopez scored a touchdown on the opening drive, but Defiance’s offense stalled the rest of the night. Defiance was forced to put the ball in the air 22 times on a sloppy track at Fred J. Brown Stadium in Defiance.

Lopez, at just 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, packs an offensive punch for the Bulldogs. He plays both ways and on special teams and has carried the ball a WBL third-best 130 times this season.

Defiance has run the ball 200 times this season for 751 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Bulldogs’ quarterback Joe  Keween has shown flashes, but he has been uneven.

Keween is 51-of-98 for 695 yards passing with three TDs and six interceptions.

Austin Hancock is his favorite target. Hancock has caught 15 passes for 235 yards. Lopez has added nine catches for 131 yards out of the backfield, too.

Defiance’s defense is aggressive, shooting linebackers into gaps with blitzes while getting upfield. But the Bulldogs are givingup 31.8 points per game this season a year after giving up 30 points per game.

The Bulldogs allowed Wapakoneta running back Conner Pickens to run wild for 230 yards on 29 carries last week and are giving up 6.3 yards per carry this fall.

The Riders will be looking to attack that soft underbelly of the Bulldogs defense with a running game gaining steam each week.

D.J. Manning rushed for the second most yards in a game in school history against another team that struggles against the run — Celina. Manning and the Roughriders’ veteran offensive line broke off large chunks of yardage in Manning’s 335-yard, four-score performance.

Manning now has 1,238 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns through five weeks of the season.

The Riders put the ball in the air just three times last week — but quarterback T.J. Powell complete two of the passes, including a key 22-yard strike to convert on third down to Tre Sherman.

St. Marys is converting 42 percent of its third downs on offense this season. The Riders converted just 31 percent of third downs as season ago.

The Riders were 8-of-14 on third downs and gained an average of 11.8 yards per play on third down last week against Celina.

St. Marys’ defense is still getting turnovers and stopping the running games of opposing offenses.

St. Marys has intercepted nine passes this season, and a pass defense that had been picked on for the first four weeks of the season stood relatively strong against Celina’s pass-happy offense.

St. Marys held Celina’s Braden Billger under 250 yards passing and defensive back Mitch Fowler picked off the junior signal caller.

Fowler leads the Riders in tackles with 34. Ryan Douglas has 33 tackles for St. Marys.

St. Marys’ run defense is one of the WBL’s best. St. Marys held Celina running back Zach Hembree to 25 yards rushing on 14 carries, making Celina one dimensional.

The Riders hold opposing rushers to 3.9 yard per carry and only individual player to eclipse 100 yards against St. Marys is Kenton quarterback Maty Mauk.

St. Marys held both Elida’s Colin Blymyer and Bath’s Aaron Smith under 80 yard rushing, along with Hembree’s tough-sledding last week.

Fast Facts:

— St. Marys is 3-0 in games they’ve scored 30 points or more this season.
— St. Marys has scored first in all five of its games this season.
— Jerry Buti is going for his 200th career win on Friday night. Buti has been stuck on 199 wins for two weeks after losses to 0-G and Wapakoneta. Before getting to Defiance in 1990, Buti was head coach at Van Wert and Findlay. Buti is a graduate of Bellaire High School, a school located on the Ohio River near Wheeling, West Virginia.

Wapakoneta at O-G
Last Season: Wapak 42, O-G 21
Streak: Wapak’s win last season snapped a three-game winning streak by Ottawa-Glandorf.

Notes: Sometimes a matchup just screams “epic.”

Friday night’s Western Buckeye League matchup between Wapakoneta and Ottawa-Glandorf certainly appears to be one of those.

The Redskins are 5-0 overall, 4-0 in the WBL and ranked 12th in the latest AP Division II state poll.  

O-G is 4-1 and 3-1, and is ranked 10th in Division IV.  

Wapak, by all appearances, is walking into the proverbial hornets’ nest.

The Titans are coming off a tough 36-20 loss to the No. 1 ranked Kenton Wildcats, a game they were still in until the final minutes.

And O-G is looking to avenge a 42-21 loss to the Redskins a year ago on a week that was filled with turmoil for the Titan program.

Oh, and it’s Homecoming weekend in Ottawa.

“This is a very, very good football team,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said.  “They’re big.  They’re getting healthy now.  They’ve had a number of players out with injuries and they’re all back now.  

“They’ll be a matchup for us that is very difficult.  It’ll be another road game at a difficult place to play, a team is a physical football team.”

Offensively the Titans are led by junior running back Tristan Parker (6-foot-1, 192 pounds).  Parker has rushed for 654 yards on 97 carries (6.7 per carry) with three touchdowns.

Senior running back Brandon Kuhlman (5-10, 185) is back after coming off an ACL injury.  He rushed for 1,000 yards as a sophomore.

And big fullback Craig Rieman (5-10, 245) gives the Titans a power threat in short yardage situations.

Junior quarterback Caleb Siefker has thrown for five touchdowns and rushed for five more scores.  But he has shown he is vulnerable to interceptions, though.  He threw three last week against Kenton to bring his season total to five.

O-G is a more run-focused team.  But it has the ability to throw the ball as well and is more of a balanced attack than any team the Redskins have faced so far.

“The level of play just jumped up two notches,” Frye said.  “What we have been doing is not going to be good enough to be successful.”

Wapak is improving in stopping the run.  After giving up 284 yards to Bath Wildcats running back Aaron Smith in Week 3, the Redskins stymied Defiance’s Nick Lopez last week and held him to just 64 yards rushing.

“The challenge (against O-G) is a little bit different than with Aaron Smith and Lopez because they have other weapons to go with those kids,” Frye said.

Defensively the Titans are big and solid.  They were third in the WBL in points allowed before the high-powered Kenton attack scored 36 points on them last week.

“I think sticking it at them every single play is going to be difficult to do,” Frye said.  “We’re going have to execute better in the run game and at least be efficient in the passing game.  They’re very good defensively.  They’re very balanced defensively.”

Frye said his biggest concern with the Redskins has been a lack of consistent effort.

“I have not yet seen our team play with 48 minutes of passion and heart,” he said.  “I’ve seen us play 24 or 36.  I’ve seen seven of 11 guys do what’s needed, eight of 11.  

“But in this game, to be a championship football team, you need all 11 on the field to play with heart and passion at all times.”

Frye admits he is a tough guy to please.  But having run top-tier football programs and having raised two sons who used to break couches running tackling drills in the basement has gotten him used to having high-motor players around.

And that’s what he’s looking for.

“[That] is what I’ve lived with my entire life.  This is just the way I’m programmed in.  And there isn’t any other program that goes with it. ...

“We’ve seen flashes of what this team is capable of doing.  But we’ve only seen flashes.  What we need to do is get more consistent.”

Kenton at Elida
Last Season: Kenton 70, Elida 21
Streak: Kenton has outscored Elida 263-61 in their five meetings since 2006. Kenton has won all five meetings.
Notes: The WBL’s best two quarterbacks and offenses square off in a game that matches two playoff teams from the 2010 season.
Kenton ascended to No. 1 in the Division IV AP Poll this week and now take that target with them to Elida.
Kenton quarterback Maty Mauk ran for 173 yards last week in a 36-20 win over O-G.
Elida has won three straight games and is scoring 36.6 points per game. Kenton is one of two WBL unbeatens and is scoring 40 points per game.
It also matches the second and third best scoring defenses in the league. Kenton is giving up 12.8 points per game and Elida is giving up 14.2 points per contest.

Celina at Van Wert
Last Season: Celina 50, Van Wert 30
Streaks: Celina’s win last season snapped a three-game skid to the Cougars.
Notes: Celina is still winless despite being in the thick of all five of its losses this season.
Quarterback Braden Billger went 29-of-43 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and an interception last week against St. Marys.
Braelen Bader caught 12 passes for 107 yards for the Bulldogs.
Celina’s run defense has struggled, giving up a 335-yard rushing night from St. Marys’ D.J. Manning in a 32-20 loss.
Celina has given up 31 or more points in every game this season.
Van Wert is also winless and has struggled offensively.
Van Wert is scoring 9.4 points per game and hasn’t scored more than 14 points in a game this season.