Kuenning, rushing attack pushes Riders past Van Wert

ST. MARYS, OH – St. Marys both started and finished with an offensive flurry as they raced paced visiting Van Wert and into the drivers seat in the Western Buckeye League with a 50-34 Week 3 victory Friday night.

Just as the schools all-time leading rusher Koby Frye had done nearly a decade ago on the night he broke the top rushing mark, Bo Kuenning stamped his name in Roughrider lore against the Cougars as he rushed for four touchdowns in helping his team to victory.

Kuenning’s first touchdown of the night put his squad on top for good where they would remain for the evening as he bullied his way in from three yards out on the opening drive of the contest and capped off a six play, 61 yard drive to make the game 7-0 in favor of St. Marys.

Early in the second quarter and beginning from the Cougars 49 the Riders again wasted no time as Sean Perry, Braeden Dunlap, Shannon Fowler and eventually Kuenning himself pushed their teams lead to 14-0 on his second score of the night.

Following defensive lineman Blake Kanorr’s first career interception the Riders only miscue of the night on special teams came when they attempted to add a field goal to their tally, only to see the kick from Gabe Vandever doink off the left upright with 7:06 left in the opening half.

Starting at their own 20 yard line the Riders fifth drive of the opening two periods ended just as their first and third had done, with a Kuenning score, this time from a yard out to push Doug Frye’s crew ahead by 21 late in the half.

Van Wert’s lone score of the half, on their ensuing possession and starting at the St. Marys seven was set up by a Jacoby Kelly kickoff return of 70 yards. Two plays and a penalty after it began the Cougars first scoring drive came to a quick fruitful ending when Nate Place’s pass found it’s way into the waiting arms of Drew Bagley.

For the final score of the first half the Riders utilized a pair of runs by the Western Buckeye League’s all-purpose yardage leader Braeden Dunlap totaling 61 yards before Kuenning topped thundered over a Cougar linebacker to push the home lead to 28-7 near the halftime break. In total the Roughriders carried the ball 39 times in the opening 24 minutes of play for 270 yards.

At times the second half resembled an arena league football game with its fast paced offensive outbursts more than a high school football contest and began with Van Wert getting on the board on the third period’s opening drive with Place tossing his second touchdown of the night, an 11 yard strike to Tanner Barnhart that pulled the Cougars close at 28-14.

A series of mistakes and a punt in which punter Trey Fisher was buried by a trio of Van Wert defenders put the ball first and ten at the Riders 21. Place, the WBL’s leading touchdown rusher picked up his 5th ground score of the season to pull his troops to within 8 but saw the ensuing extra point attempt knocked away by St. Marys defender Reed Aller who burst through the line and timed his dive perfectly.

Two weeks in a row the St. Marys special teams have answered a score by an opponent with a score. Last weekend Dunlap broke the hearts of Ottawa Glandorf by returning a kick 91 yards early in the fourth, this week the honor against the Cougars belonged to Perry who scampered 87 yards to push the Riders lead back to double digits at 35-20.

Not ones to back down from an opponent score, the Cougars used just two plays to respond themselves as the duo of Place and Barnhart hooked up once again, this time from 63 yards out to make the score 35-26 after kicker Jake Lautzenheiser missed the extra point.

The fourth play of the following St. Marys drive looked a lot like the first play of the game as tailback Shannon Fowler sprinted 43 yards past the defense attempting to tackle him for a score. Fowler would also rush in on the two-point conversion to give the Riders a 43-26 advantage with 4:57 to go in the games penultimate stanza.

Starting with 3:19 left in the third quarter and from their own 37 the home team found themselves on a path the program has been known for, a long game breaking drive culminating in a score. Colin Clements QB sneak from a yard out touched off a 12 play drive and finished at the 9:19 mark of the fourth period with the scoreboard flashing 50-26 St. Marys.

Despite being sacked by Kuenning and Aller early on in the drive, Cougars signal caller Nate Place rebounded late in the same drive as he tossed a 15 yard pass in the back corner to Storm Pierce for a score. James Aquaviva, the WBL’s 9th leading rusher entering play was successful on the two-point conversion to get his team within 50-34 with 6:13 remaining.

Just as they had done on their previous drive the Roughriders took time off the Skip Baughman Stadium clock in bunches as they utilized carries by Fowler, Clements and Ty Schlosser to get inside the Van Wert five and milk the time off until the game reached the final whistle.

Not only did Van Wert (2-1, 1-1) see their unblemished record suffer its first setback, but the Cougars who ended a 10 game WBL losing streak last week by beating Wapakoneta 26-20 saw their losing streak against St. Marys move to four straight.

St. Marys (2-1, 2-0) was led by a career high yardage output from Shannon Fowler who finished with 16 rushes for 135 yards and a touchdown run. Bo Kuenning finished with 80 yards and four scores on 19 carries and helped the Roughrider ground attack finish with 447 yards on 68 carries.

Colin Clements finished 3/4 throwing the football for 67 yards. All three completions by Clements resulted in first downs for St. Marys who picked up 25 on the evening.

Next week the Roughriders will be in action at home against Shawnee and will honor the 1990/92/93 State Championship winning squads before the game while Van Wert will battle 1-2 Ottawa Glandorf at home looking to get back on the winning track.

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