Weekly Preview: Turnovers Have Led To Midseason Turnaround

St. Marys’ Trey Fisher (10) and Lukas Walter (4) celebrate after the Roughriders recovered a fumble at the 1 yard line to keep Elida from scoring. Turnovers have played a major part in the Riders’ turnaround midway through the season.
Sports Editor

Through the first three weeks of the season, St. Mays held a -2 turnover margin which resulted in a 1-2 record and an 0-2 start to the Western Buckeye League.

Fast forward to week 7 and the Roughriders have the second-best turnover ratio in the league and have won four straight games.

You could call it a coincidence, but turnovers play a big part in football and evidence shows it is a catalyst for the Roughriders' turnaround as they continue to be in the middle of the playoff race. 

"We have been improving and it has been a point of emphasis all along," Roughriders coach Doug Frye said. "Football teaches you a lot of lessons and when you get humbled you learn some lessons and I think as coaches and players and concentrate on the little things a little harder.

"It is something we have been emphasizing all of the way and maybe it is something we are also paying closer attention."

St. Marys (5-2, 4-2 WBL) has also played clean football for the last three weeks, while also forcing eight turnovers during the three-game span. The improvements in the turnover department has put St. Marys at +6 on the season and just two turnovers shy of Wapakoneta's league-leading +8.

"I give a lot of credit to our seniors or guys who are our Friday night lights guys," Frye said. "They come out of the locker room and play hard from the beginning and that is what I ask of them is to play hard. We have just been on a decent run and hopefully we can continue that."

One of those seniors and Friday night lights guys who the team has rallied around is quarterback Kurt Bubp. Since taking over under center midway through the game against Ottawa-Glandorf week 3, Bubp has not turned the ball over as a rusher or a passer and has five passing touchdowns in the 4+ games he has played.

The offense has also improved as a whole, going from fourth in rushing in the WBL to second and increasing its rushing yards average from 217.3 after week 3 to 267.7 yards per game heading into Friday. The offense is also averaging 10 more points per game since Bubp has taken over.

"He has done an exceptional job since he stepped into that role, he has been a leader and Kurt continues to improve immensely daily," Frye said. "He is watching film, he's working at it and I have been extremely pleased with his progress."

Bubp was held back earlier in the season because of a summer injury to his throwing arm, but the senior has recovered from his injury, added 15 pounds of muscle to his body and, according to Frye, has become a much-better athlete at the right time.

"He has a certain moxie to him and that moxie carries over to the rest of the football team," Frye added.

That moxie has rubbed off on both young and veteran players.

In the win against Kenton, senior players Lukas Walter and Ty Howell accounted for all three interceptions against quarterback Blaine Huston — with Howell's last-minute pick sealing the game for the win. Yet plays by Ethan Wedding last week against Elida and an interception from Brandon Paul in a win against Van Wert each led to scores that helped ion the Roughriders' wins. 

"I think we are on the right track, but I still think the jury is out until the final tally at the end of the season," Frye said. "This season has really been broken into two parts — the start where we struggled a little bit and how we have continued to bounce back. Now we are going to see the third part of this.

"Have we learned our lessons, we are continuing the grind and continuing to get better on a daily basis?" We have gotten a lot better, but the final grade card is still out until we finish the season."


Young bucks

Now that St. Marys has settled in during its four-game win streak so too are the younger players on the team. Watch for them to continue to make plays against Bath on Friday. 

Ethan Wedding is starting to be a difference maker on both sides of the ball in the last two weeks. 

Against Kenton, the junior first-year full-time varsity was moved from halfback to fullback and accounted for 28 of the Roughriders' 42 yards on a crucial offensive drive that Wedding scored on for what ended up being the game-winning score. Last week against Elida, Wedding had his best offensive game with 102 yards, two rushing touchdowns and an average of 14.6 yards per carry.

"From a mentality and above the eyebrows standpoint, he is much like Sean Perry because both are such intelligent young men," "We have moved him around from various positions and he had been able to adapt quickly. I guess what jumps at me is his general intelligence and just how he adapts to where we put him at … I am just impressed by his team-first attitude and his quickness to pick things up."

Dylan Trogdlon is another young player who has settled into his role. 

First the team's quarterback, then a cornerback and now all-purpose player on offense, Trogdlon has scored three touchdowns in the last three games — passing, kickoff return and receiving. 

"Dylan was really a product of things we really don't like to do in our program," "We like to settle them in and have them in waiting at the JV level and because of our quarterback position early in the season, we had to teach him a brand new position, we had to put him in at corner where he played safety last year at JV and then also move him back to halfback," Frye added. "Now, in these last two weeks, he is settling in at a comfort level."

Kicking off without a hitch

In the last two games, the Roughriders have started fast, but have started fast without their offense on the field. Trogdlon began the game against Kenton off with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Ty Howell began the game against Elida last week with a 90-yard TD return.

"I think it is great, but in addition to that, we had a fast start against Kenton, but they rallied right back," "The fast starts are important, but also how you handle the adversity and the sudden changes of the game is something we did well and I was very pleased with the way we came back against Kenton and I have been pleased with the progression of our special teams."