By TOM HENDRIXSON
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP -- The St. Marys Roughriders continued the strong play they have shown over the last few weeks, winning their third game in a row on Friday night in a defensive battle against Shawnee.
St. Marys finally came out of the hard-fought game with a 10-0 win to knock the Indians back into a first-place tie with Wapakoneta in the Western Buckeye League.
The game was still very much in doubt as the third quarter opened with the visitors up 3-0 on a 21-yard field goal by Doug Burke late in the second stanza.
However, the final two quarters belonged to the Roughriders. The St. Marys defense intercepted Shawnee quarterback Josh Miller three times and had the ball in the hands of their offense for 18:56 of the final 24 minutes of the game.
It was an interception by Mitch Dunlap just 52 seconds into the fourth quarter that marked the beginning of the end for the home-standing Indians. Starting on their own 42-yard line, the Roughriders marched down the field in a 16-play, 58-yard drive that took 8:26 off the clock. Ten of those 16 plays were hand offs to running back Koby Frye, who finished the night with 170 yards on a school-record 40 carries. Frye's 40th carry was almost a disaster as he fumbled the ball inside the 10-yard line, but Adam Johns was in the right place at the right time and pounced on the ball at the one.
Quarterback Derek Dunlap covered the final yard on a quarterback sneak and Burke's kick gave the Roughriders their final margin of 10-0.
Dunlap, who completed two of his eight passes on the night for 36 yards, also turned in a stellar game on the defensive side of the ball, picking off two Shawnee passes.
St. Marys, improving to 5-2 overall and 4-2 in the WBL, had a great chance for a touchdown in the first half on its first drive of the night. Frye gave his club excellent field position on the opening kick off with a 45-yard return, all the way down to the Indian 37-yard line. However, the 11-play drive came up short on a fourth-and-four from the 10-yard line when Dunlap and Johns couldn't quite make the connection in the end zone and ball went back to the home team.
Shawnee's outstanding sophomore running back, Brandon Stephenson, who finished the game with 134 yards rushing, reeled off two long runs in the first quarter, and ended the half with 101, but the Roughrider defense held him to only 33 yards in the second half.
"He (Stephenson) is a fine running back you could see his talent out there tonight," said St. Marys head coach Doug Frye. "And they have a big senior-dominated offensive line. He ripped off some good-size runs, but when he broke through (the line of scrimmage) our kids in the secondary did a good job of coming up and tackling him. That's something we didn't do earlier in the year. Tonight we tackled well and were very physical."
The Roughriders also did a good job of taking the ball away, forcing five turnovers, on four interceptions and a fumble recovery. The turnovers were the first thing Shawnee head coach Dick West looked at as he analyzed his team's performance.
"We had those interceptions and that fumbled punt," commented the Indians mentor, now in his ninth year. "That gave them field position and you just can't leave your defense on the field as much as we did. They (St. Marys) have a good strong running game and we just had a bad night as a team. We weren't making the plays we've made all year to get us where we were tonight."
Shawnee falls to 5-2 overall and 5-1 in the WBL.
"What we ask of our kids, and you have to win like this sometimes, is to handle adversity," commented Frye. "We were a young team at the beginning of the year and had some injuries and when things went bad we sort of bottomed out, but since the Wapakoneta game we just said, 'Hey, we're not going to worry about mistakes. They are going to happen on the football field, so just go out and play old-school football, Roughrider football. Take advantage of opportunities, and I thought we did that tonight."