By MARC TOBIAS
For St. Marys it’s simple, a win against Grand Lake rival
Celina and it can have the sole claim to the Western Buckeye
League title. Lose, and St. Marys will likely share the crown
with Bath and Defiance.
A win would also be key for the ’Riders as far as homefield
in the playoffs is concerned, as they’re ranked fifth
in Region 12.
“This is always a big game, regardless of the situation,
it’s the battle of the lake and it’s a huge game,”
said St. Marys coach Doug Frye. “Obviously it has league
implications for us, but you can throw everything out the window
for this football game.”
Celina’s playoff hopes are a bit murkier, as a win would
only move them to the 12th spot in their region. Without a lot
of help, this is most likely the season finale for the Bulldogs.
But Bulldogs coach Mike Fell said a win in this game can help
erase some of the pitfalls of a season, as well as send them
into the off season with a much better taste in their mouths.
“This is St. Marys’ week, this is the biggest week
of the football season regardless of any kind of standards or
records or anything else,” Fell said.
Of course lately it’s been a series dominated by the Roughriders,
as the Bulldogs last win against their Grand Lake rival was
back in 1998.
For that trend to change, the Bulldogs will need to find a way
to put points up against a defense that is second in the Western
Buckeye League by allowing just 13.1 points per game.
“They’re very strong up front, their four down linemen
are strong and tough to move, and then their linebackers are
as good as anybody in the league,” Fell said. “Vossler
(Scott) is a real good linebacker, but their outside linebackers
Quellhorst (Ross) and Yahl (Nick), those two guys do an outstanding
job. They blitz, they fly to the ball and they get back in pass
coverage, they get all over the field.”
So far not many offenses have fared well against the Roughriders,
and they’ve done an especially good job at shutting down
the run as they’ve allowed just over 88 yards per game.
St. Marys has been victimized through the air, as the Roughriders
secondary is the second worst in the WBL by allowing 141 passing
yards a contest, which Fell said can be deceiving.
“They play such a good run defense that teams try to throw
the ball on them, so that’s why there are probably more
yards passing,” explained Fell.
Still, the Roughriders haven’t faced a quarterback as
versatile as the Bulldogs’ Brian Gagle, something that
Frye said has him concerned.
“Gagle I really believe is the best athlete we’ve
faced all year at quarterback, and taking nothing away from
their previous quarterback, but I actually think they’re
a better offense now,” Frye said. “He adds a dimension
to their offense that they didn’t have before.”
Looking at last week, Frye may be correct, as Celina racked
up 425 yards of offense against Wapakoneta.
Tim Homan has also picked up his play the last two weeks, as
he’s had eight grabs from his wideout position in each
of the past two games.
“I think by far he’s the best receiver in the league,
he’s going to Hillsdale as I understand (to play basketball),
and he’s well deserving of everything he gets,”
Frye said. “He’s by far the best receiver in the
league and a real challenge to stop.”
Big time receivers have had some big games against the Roughriders
this year, such as Kenton’s Braden Spivey and Shawnee’s
Brad Goldsberry. Fell said he expects Homan to be doubled like
he has against almost every opponent this season.
“Team’s have definitely been keying on Tim, we’ve
moved him around trying to put him in different spots and put
him in motion, but basically we decided to throw the ball to
him anyway,” Fell said. “He’s still getting
double covered, but we decided we have to get him in the offense.
We’re going to get the ball to him, he’s one of
our two top weapons.”
St. Marys of course will try to establish the run, but that
task may prove more difficult this weekend with top rusher Justin
Nagel sidelined with a knee injury.
Frye said he hasn’t ruled out the tailback possibly making
a return for the playoffs, but this week’s game would
be a long shot.
Nagel has run for just under 800 yards, and has been the Riders’
best threat to break a long run.
“Well, we’ll probably have to go to the run and
shoot, five-wide out of the shotgun,” Frye said.
Of course, Frye was kidding, but without Nagel, St. Marys loses
some of its big play potential.
Part of that void should be alleviated with the emergence of
Bo Frye. Frye has run for 171 yards the last two weeks after
playing defense the majority of the year.
Bo Frye has been a bruising runner, and a tough tackle to make
and, unfortunately for Celina, their leading tackler Ethan Swaney
won’t be able to help bring down Frye, as he’s serving
the second of a two-game suspension for breaking team rules.
“The key to St. Marys is the offensive line, there’s
a lot of kids that can run the ball for them, but the line comes
off low and hard and does an excellent job,” Fell said.
“When you just run the ball and you practice that everyday,
you can get a lot of things accomplished by just staying low
and firing off the ball and that’s the key for St. Marys.”
With Nagel out early in last weeks game, Riders quarterback
Corey Vossler also saw more carries, and without Nagel, he’s
most likely the quickest player in the backfield.