Stout rush defense, balanced offense lifts Riders to first WBL win since 2009

The light went on for the Roughrider offense and Bath’s punishing running back got taken down.

The St. Marys football team delivered a breakthrough 36-19 win over Bath by stonewalling standout tailback Aaron Smith on defense  and mixing a powerful ground game with an efficient passing game on Friday night at Skip Baughman Stadium.

St. Marys tailback D.J. Manning rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback T.J. Powell went 6-of-10 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns in St. Marys’ first Western Buckeye League victory since Oct. 9, 2009. The Riders had lost 14 consecutive WBL games until last night.

“Our first WBL win in two years goes a long ways for us,” senior wide receiver Tre Sherman said. “We hope to keep going.”

The Roughrider defense was at the center of the win. St. Marys (2-2, 1-2 in the WBL) stuffed the rotund and powerful Smith for 74 yards on 22 carries, including a key goalline stand in the third quarter after Bath had the ball first and goal from the St. Marys five yard line.

Bath (2-2, 1-2 in the WBL) gave the ball to Smith four times and four times St. Marys stood the 5-10, 230-pound back up to keep its lead at 20-7.

Smith entered the game with more than 560 yards rushing in two games played, including 286 yards against Wapakoneta the week before in a game Smith was stopped on a two-point conversion in a 14-13 loss.

Instead of coming up short at the end, Bath’s running game never got off the starting block.

“We were selling out on the run,” St. Marys head coach Greg Phillips said. “They were doing some things we hadn’t seen, but we figured if we stopped one of the best rushers in the area and held him down, we at least had a shot.”

Bath rushed for just 102 yards on 32 carries after entering the game the second-best rushing team in the WBL. St. Marys entered the game the best rush defense, giving up 97 yards on the ground per game.

“Gang tackling was the plan,” St. Marys senior linebacker Ryan Douglas said. “Take him out and play hard-nosed football, that was what we were planning on doing. He’s huge, but we took him down. That’s all there was to it.”

“We were looking to follow him wherever he went and to gang-tackle him,” St. Marys outside linebacker Steven Paulus said. “We wanted to wear him down. We knew him being a big boy, being like 240, we could slow him down and get him tired and that’s what we did.”

After Smith took his first rush of the game for 14 yards, he never cracked a run more than eight yards the rest of the night.

“We never established the running game,” Bath head coach Chris Miller said afterward. “It was very clear they won the line of scrimmage battle on both sides of the ball. They were getting good push and we were falling. If we’ve got a second and goal from the one and can’t punch it in...It’s gut-check time for Bath football.”

The WBL’s leading rusher coming into the night only added another chapter to an amazing season. St. Marys senior tailback D.J. Manning ran the ball 34 times for 229 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown with 5:25 left in the game that left mouths agape on both sides.

And it all started with a mess-up in the play call.

“I left a piece of the formation off when calling the play,” Phillips said. “So we had the offensive line switched the wrong way. I didn’t want to burn a time out. So D.J. takes it the other way and brings it all the way back to  the other side of the field.”

Manning took the pitch to the short side of the field, reversed field, got a crunching block from tight end Jarett Taylor and rumbled the 47 yards down the right sideline to send the crowd into a tizzy.

“Just like we coached it,” Phillips said, laughing. “You give athletes the ball and they make plays.”

St. Marys’ passing game awoke, with T.J. Powell going 6-of-10 for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44-yard strike to Taylor and a 40-yard touchdown to Sherman.

“It’s nothing we haven’t wanted to do,” Phillips said. “It’s just been at times where T.J. has been an uzi on full automatic, spraying the ball everywhere. So we kept working on it. We told T.J. that we were going to choose our spots.”

The passing game caught Bath off-guard.

“You would expect them to run the ball, but they ran it well and it opened up the passing game,” Miller said. “We had to squeeze some guys in the box and that opened some things up. Their coaching staff noticed that and took advantage.”

Powell hit senior wideout Tre Sherman three times for 82 yards, including the 40-yard strike down the right sideline in the fourth quarter to give St. Marys a 26-13 lead with seven minutes left in the game.

Sherman said he saw man coverage almost all night.

“We threw it well in practice this week,” Sherman said. “T.J.’s been throwing it well lately and we’re trying to get on track to throw the ball more.”

Sherman, a 6-2 big target, caught a perfectly throw ball over his shoulder, broke a tackle and strode into the end zone.

“We get in a formation with two tight ends and teams want to load the box on us,” Phillips said. “We like No. 5 (Tre Sherman). We feel like if we can get him the ball five times a game, we’re going to cause the defenses some problems.”

Bath answered the Powell to Sherman touchdown quickly to get to within nine points when Bath quarterback Brad Davis run in from nine yards out to make it 28-19. Bath coach Chris Miller decided to go for two. Davis took the two-point conversion snap out of the shot gun and ran for the end zone to the left. He appeared to be sailing in for a touchdown when St. Marys defensive back Mitch Fowler flew in and splayed Davis out near the goalline.

Miller defended his choice of going for two points while down by nine.

“We wanted to get to within one touchdown,” Miller said. “We didn’t want to leave it out there for later. We’re an aggressive staff and an aggressive team and if we have an opportunity to pull to within seven, we’re going to pull within seven. I thought he may have gotten in there, but we didn’t get the call. Credit them, St. Marys didn’t stop so I don’t think it made much difference in the long run anyways.”

Manning then sealed the game with his long run to make it 36-19 with 5:25 left.

Powell connected with tight end Jarrett Taylor on his other touchdown, rolling to his left, hitting a wide open Taylor down field. Taylor steamrolled a would-be tackler and ran 53 yards for the touchdown with 1:07 left in the first half. St. Marys led 12-0.

Taylor had two catches for 60 yards receiving.

Bath scored in the final minute of the second half with a good kickoff return to midfield and then a three-play touchdown strike keyed by a 36 yard Brad Davis pass and capped by a Smith four-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 12-7 at the half.  

St. Marys responded by taking the opening drive of the second half for a six-play, 65-yard scoring jaunt. T.J. Powell hit Sherman on a 35 yard pass up the seam, setting up D.J. Manning for a seven-yard score on a first and goal to put the Riders up 20-7 through three quarters.

Bath closed to within 20-13 when Brad Davis ran in from four yards out with 8:50 left in the fourth.

St. Marys plays at arch-rival Celina next Friday night.

St. Marys    36
Bath             19

B      0   7   0   12  —  19
SM   6   6   8   16  —  36

1st Quarter

SM — D.J. Manning 27-yard touchdown run (kick failed), SM 6-0, 5:54 (9-play, 66-yard drive, T.O.P. 3:42).
2nd Quarter
SM — Jarrett Taylor 53-yard touchdown reception from T.J. Powell (2pt. conversion failed), SM 12-0, 1:07 (3-play, 57-yard drive, T.O.P. 1:05).
B — Aaron Smith 4-yard touchdown run (Davey Briggs kick good), SM 12-7, 0:33 (3-play, 51-yard drive, T.O.P. 0:34).
3rd Quarter
SM — Manning 7-yard touchdown run (Manning 2 pt. conversion), SM 20-7, 10:21 (6-play, 65-yard drive, T.O.P. 1:39).
4th Quarter
B — Brad Davis four-yard touchdown run (Kick blocked), SM 20-13, 8:50 (11-play, 53-yard drive, T.O.P. 3:42).
SM — Tre Sherman 40-yard touchdown reception from Powell (Manning 2pt. conversion), SM 28-13, 7:13 (3-play, 57-yard drive, T.O.P. 1:37).
B — Davis nine-yard touchdown run (2pt. conversion failed), SM 28-19, 6:19 (5-play, 65-yard drive, T.O.P. 0:54).
SM — Manning 47-yard touchdown run (Steven Paulus 2pt. conversion run), SM 36-19, 5:25 (2-play, 51-yard drive, T.O.P. 0:54).

RUSHING — SM: D.J. Manning 34-229, 3 TDs; T.J. Powell 6-2, Tyler Core 2-17, Steven Paulus 3-7, Brad Axe 4-7. BATH: Aaron Smith 22-74, Keanu James 3-8, Brad Davis 7-40.
PASSING — SM: T.J. Powell 6-10-150 yards, 2 TDs; Tyler Core 1-2-7. BATH: Brad Davis 13-25-156, INT.
RECEIVING — SM: Tre Sherman 3-82; Jarrett Taylor 2-60; D.J. Manning 1-7, Steven Paulus 2-15.

                                      SM    B

Rushing                  49-262    32-102
Yds. Per Carry             5.3       3.2
Passing               7-12-157       13-25-156
Had Intercepted           0          1
Fumbles-Lost            1-0         0-0
Total Offense             419        258