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Monday, November 10th, 2008

Quick start fizzles for 'Riders

By Gary R. Rasberry

St. Marys' Keith Perry, 9, makes a tackle on a Big Walnut ball carrier during th. . .

LEWISTOWN - The momentum St. Marys had in the first half of its Division III regional semifinal came tumbling down quickly.
After scoring 12 points in the first quarter and moving the ball well through the first half, Big Walnut clamped down in the second half, allowing the Golden Eagles to come back and end the Roughriders' season with a 17-12 win at Indian Lake Stadium in Lewistown.
Big Walnut (10-2) will face Avon next Saturday at Ashland Community Stadium. St. Marys ends its season at 9-3.
The first half was dominated by the Roughriders, who mixed up their usual solid running (144 yards in first half) with some clutch passing that had been missing over the last half of the regular season.
St. Marys quarterback Jake Taylor completed his first six passes of the game for 84 yards, 23 came on the opening score of the game when Taylor found Cody Martin in the end zone.
After an Eagle punt, St. Marys mixed things up. Taylor found Matt Watkins for a 34-yard pass, setting up Jeremy Frey's 33-yard scoring run on the next play to make it 12-0 after missing the two-point run.
While the Roughriders had more chances to add to the scoring, the Eagles finally figured out the Roughriders and slowed things down. Taylor followed his six straight completions with 10 straight incompletions, one an interception that set up Big Walnut's first score late in the first half on a 15-yard pass from Johnny Cannell to Bret Myers with 21 seconds left to send the game to the half at 12-7.
"The first half, they just knocked us on our heels," said Big Walnut coach Scott Wetzel. "We were kind of back-pedaling. To get that score right before half was huge for us. Give us a little momentum."
The second half saw St. Marys try everything to keep momentum. After going 7-for-7 on third-down conversions to start the game. St. Marys had trouble moving the ball, punting once and turning the ball over on four other possessions.
"First half we had some opportunities offensively that we didn't take advantage of. The game could have really been much worse at that point," said St. Marys coach Doug Frye. "Second half, it comes down to blocking and tackling sometimes. We just didn't finish things up. They were playing more aggressive than us and we weren't able to move the ball around."
That allowed Big Walnut to let its offense work. Eugene Cannady picked up 40 yards on a "Wildcat" set that caught St. Marys on its heels. Four plays later, Cannell scored on a fourth-and-goal from the two to put the Golden Eagles up 14-12 after A.J. Fleak's PAT.
"We came out and played good football in the second half," said Wetzel. "We was able to shut them down and move the ball some to get our defense off the field a bit. That was the key."
On Walnut's next series, after St. Marys turned it over on downs when a fake punt run by Aaron Homan was a yard short of the first down, the Golden Eagles tried another trick play as backup quarterback Jordan DeWitt took a halfback option and passed it 32 yards to the Roughrider 23. After getting three more yards, Fleak, a member of Big Walnut's boys soccer regional runner-up team, booted a 37-yarder that just went over the crossbar to make it 17-12.
St. Marys tried to move the ball on its next series, using two solid runs by Taylor to get to the Walnut 38, but two straight incompletions gave the Eagles the ball with 7:12 left. Walnut, promptly coughed up the ball as Buddy Carrel lost the ball after a 22-yard run, Cory Dammeyer picked up the fumble in mid-air to give the Roughriders the ball with 6:28 left on their 34. Again, the Roughriders started strong, with Homan picking up 36 yards on the opening play, before slowing down as Homan could only gain a yard on a fourth-and-3 from the Eagle 23.
Big Walnut, however, could not sustain a drive and punted the ball away with 1:50 left. Taylor found Frey for a 13-yard pass to move the ball to the St. Marys' 39, but after two incompletions, Taylor was picked off by Nick Heiden, giving the Eagles the ball on the Roughrider 31. With St. Marys able to stop the clock once, Big Walnut ran three plays to take up enough time to end the game.
Frey completes his career with the Roughriders with 170 yards on 26 carries, 98 coming in the first half. Homan added 71 yards.
"I'm very proud of our kids' effort tonight," said Frye. "The kids played with a lot of heart. Big Walnut is a quality football team. We had some opportunities that we didn't cash in on that we really should have. That's unfortunate tonight, but I thought our kids played extremely hard."
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