By Gary R. Rasberry
LIMA -- In a game that looked to have tendencies of being an offensive shootout, the key play of the game was a defensive stop.
Celina allowed Bath a 13-play drive to start the second half, lasting just over seven minutes, but didn't give up a score. Celina kept the Wildcats from scoring at all in the second half and came away with a 25-10 win to spoil the Wildcats' homecoming festivities.
The win gives Celina a 3-4 record and a 3-3 slate in the Western Buckeye League. Bath, despite rushing for over 200 yards in the game, remains winless at 0-7 overall and 0-6 in league play.
After both teams scored double digits in the second quarter to make it an 18-10 half-time score in favor of the Bulldogs, both teams keyed up the defense. Celina had to punt three times in the second half, after neither team punted in the first half. Bath, however, gave up the ball via turnovers as the Wildcats fumbled once and quarterback Bobby Jenkins was picked off twice in the second half. Bath turned the ball over five times in the game.
Bath got the ball on its 42-yard line to start the third quarter and went with the play that got them plenty yards in the first half, a handoff to Todd Ruggley. the sophomore tailback carried the ball for a stretch of six straight plays on the drive, helping the team move from their own 42 to the Celina 20. A lost yard by Jared Caprella and an illegal motion play backed the Wildcats to the 24, but Ruggley got the team back to the 16 with an eight-yard run. The next play, though, Jenkins was sacked by Aaron Hart to force a fourth-and-18 from the 26. Bath sent out Greg Burlson, who had booted a 25-yard field goal earlier, to try from 43 yards, but the kick was well short and off to the left. Neither team could score until the final drive, when Celina's Bill Nickell recovered a fumble with 2:11 left in the game. Celina took the ball 23 yards, with Chapin running in from the four to give Celina an insurance score with 33 seconds left. Bath tried to pass its way to a late score, but Nick Gray picked off Jenkins when time expired.
"I thought Bath played extremely hard," said Celina coach Mike Fell. "It was their homecoming night and they were in the ballgame all night with a chance to win. We couldn't finish them off. They move the ball well.
"We challenged our defense at halftime to keep them from scoring. They moved the ball, but we were able to keep them out of the end zone and not kick a field goal."
Celina took advantage of getting the big play at the right time. On the third play of the game, Chapin found Stu Amstutz up the middle for what looked to be a 12-yard gain. However, Amstutz broke several tackles and wasn't stopped until getting tripped up at the Bath three-yard line. Two plays later, Chapin followed Brad Jeffries' block up the middle from a yard out to put Celina up 7-0 after the extra point.
"They were putting it real tight on us up front there and making us work for our running yardage," said Fell. "We had some room to throw the ball (Chapin was just 4-of-11, but threw for 186 yards with no interceptions). We hit a couple and that opened things up a bit. We had close to 400 yards (358 yards) of offense."
After Bath tied the game just after the start of the second quarter, Chapin fired a third down screen pass to Brandon Ley, who broke several tackles and dashed 81 yards for the end zone to make it 15-7 after Andy Harner scored on a two-point conversion.
The teams traded field goals to wrap up the half. Burlson booted a 25-yarder with three minutes left while Ley kicked one from 35 yards with 25 seconds left to make it 18-10 at the half.
Ruggley finished the game with 181 yards on 32 carries to pace Bath. Half his carries were for six yards or better with just four carries going for no yardage or negative yardage.
"He runs extremely hard," said Fell. "We were fortunate to force some turnovers. That played a big part on our side."
"You can't make the mistakes that we made," said Bath coach Jim Ehresman. "(Amstutz) catches the ball with four guys on him and he takes it down to the four. We have to tackle him. Then there was the situation where they threw the screen play. We worked on that play all week. We have to execute.
"Our kids are playing better every week. They're playing hard. ... For us, we have to do everything right. The thing we're doing is, we're getting better," concluded Ehresman.
Celina returns to Celina Stadium for a tough chore on Friday, facing unbeaten and state-ranked Ottawa-Glandorf. Bath travels north to face Defiance.