By Ryan Hines
St. Marys' dominance in the Battle of Grand Lake continued on Friday night as the Roughriders beat Celina for the sixth straight time, 35-14 at Skip Baughman Stadium.
The win gives St. Marys a share of the Western Buckeye League championship -- along with Shawnee, which defeated Elida 28-6 -- with a 9-1 overall mark and 8-1 record in the WBL. It's the second year in a row that the Roughriders have won at least a share of the WBL, winning the league crown outright last season. Celina finishes 2-8 overall on the season and in last place in the WBL with a 1-8 record, tied with Elida.
Not only did St. Marys clinch a share of the WBL title, but the Roughriders also guarenteed themselves a home game in the opening week of the playoffs, the fifth year in a row that the Blue and Gold have earned its way into the postseason.
"When you win the league title in a league as good as the WBL for two years in a row, that's a major accomplishment," said St. Marys head coach Doug Frye. "Our coaching staff has been together for five years now and I'm just fortunate to be the head coach with such a great staff surrounding me. Eighty-percent of the teams in the state are putting their equiptment away for the year now and we're happy to be in a situation where we still have some football to play. We're proud to be able to represent the league in the playoffs."
Bo Frye led the Roughriders with 23 carries for 132 yards and four scores, but it was a kickoff return by Corey Vossler that sparked St. Marys. Trailing 7-0 following a six-yard touchdown run by Celina's Andy Harner, Vossler took the ensuing kickoff and raced 90 yards for a score to tie the game and swing the momentum to the Roughriders.
"I thought that was the play that really ignited us," explained Frye. "Corey Vossler, Nick Yahl and Justin Nagel have been big-play guys for us for three years now. Corey got some good blocks on the play and when he puts his head down he's a tough guy to bring down."
"That kid just makes plays," praised Celina head coach Mike Fell. "I think that Corey Vossler and Nick Yahl are the two best players in the WBL and they've been good for them for three years."
Frye scored two of his touchdowns to give St. Marys a 20-7 lead at halftime when a special teams risk by Celina gave the Roughriders excellent field position on their first possession of the second half.
Celina was facing a fourth-and-13 situation when Fell called for a fake punt on its own 27-yard line. The fake never fooled the St. Marys defense and the Harner pass fell incomplete giving the back to the Roughriders.
"We were down two touchdowns and we haven't stopped them for awhile and I thought that maybe we could get things going our way," said Fell. "We were just trying to get the momentum back in our favor. They were running punts back well anyways."
"I told our kids that I thought they would pull anything out of the bag this week, so I wasn't surprised that they ran the fake," said Frye. "Our kids deserve credit because they were ready for it."
St. Marys took advantage of the great field position and Frye capped a five-play drive with a three-yard plunge into the end zone. Vossler then ran in the two-point conversion to give the Roughriders a commanding 28-7 advantage.
The failed fake punt attempt was a key mistake on Celina's part considering the Bulldogs put together their best offensive drive of the game on their next possession.
Celina drove 73 yards on its next possession in 11 plays and Erik Chapin scored from seven yards out to pull the Bulldogs to within 14 points at 28-14.
St. Marys answered the Celina scoring drive with seven more points when Frye scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a two-yard run with 10:04 left in the game capping a 12-play drive.
Despite surrendering 35 points, Celina's defense played probably its best game of the season. It was the Bulldogs' offense that gave St. Marys great field position all night long and the Roughriders were able to take advantage of those situations. Of the five St. Marys scoring drives, only one of those drives started on the Roughriders' side of the field.