ST. MARYS, OH – Despite their season coming to an end last weekend in the Regional Finals, the 2016 version of St. Marys football rushed themselves into the schools record books in a multitude of ways.
Before this season it had been eight full years since the Roughriders found themselves with a share of the Western Buckeye League as they did this season with an 8-1 record. In the 2008 season St. Marys finished with a 7-2 result of their conference slate and shared the championship four ways with Shawnee, Kenton, and Defiance. Overall the Roughriders were able to pick up their WBL leading 23rd conference championship, no other team outside of Van Wert (18) has reached double digits in that category.
By ending their regular season at 9-1 the Riders also found themselves back in the playoffs and with the opportunity to host a first round playoff game for just the third time in school history, and for the first time since 2003 when they fell to Cincinnati Wyoming 18-16. This years Riders found their opponents to be the Dayton Belmont Bison when the seedings were finalized and had little issue with their opponents as they defeated the Bison 42-8 for the first home playoff win in program history.
Offensively St. Marys finished as the second highest scoring unit in a single season as they racked up 474 points for an average of 36.5 points per game that also ranks in the top 10 for a single season at 6th.
Against Sidney in the 2016 season opener the Riders survived a strong Jackets attack for a 43-39 win and also set a pair of records in the process as they rushed 77 times (previous record was 75 times in a game vs Sidney in 2000), and totaled 84 total offensive plays to break the previous mark of 81 vs Sidney in the same 2000 contest mentioned above.
Individually the Riders saw a handful of individual records fall or would see players rise quickly up the ranks. Quarterback Dustin Howell leaves his football eligibility behind as the schools all-time leading yardage passer as the first QB in school history to throw for over 2,000 yards as he finished with 2,052. Howell also leaves as the leader in passing touchdowns with 20 scoring tosses. On the ground Howell also finished with 25 rushing scores in his time under center. There have been eight instances of a QB throwing for three touchdowns in a single game, three times that feat has been accomplished by Howell, including most recently this season as he tossed a trio of scores at Shawnee.
Rushing the football St. Marys accounted for 4500 plus yards behind the Senior dominated lineup of 1st Team WBL Offensive Tackle Garrett Lauth, 1st Team WBL Center Jonathan Peterson, 2nd Team WBL Guard Aaron McGraw, Tyler Miller, and the conference Lineman of the Year Joey Morlino.
With many holes to run through Eric Spicer finished his career as the Riders 3rd all-time leading rusher by running for 1,620 yards during his Senior year (4th best single season mark), and 3,647 yards on the ground in his career. Spicer, who finished as the WBL Back of the Year and was a 1st Team All-NW District selection reached the endzone 31 times via rush and 38 times overall (6 receiving/1 kick return).
Alongside the damage Spicer did on the ground this season he was joined by Julius Fisher who opened the season with six straight 100+ yard games and finished with 1,220 yards rushing. With their combined total of 2,840 yards the Riders Senior duo finished just 6 yards from being the highest gaining twosome in a single season in school history (Shawn Lamb/Adam Kerns & Bo Frye/Justin Nagel each finished with a 2,845 combined total).
Defensively the Riders not only found themselves giving up just 11.0 ppg, St. Marys surrendered 166 points in 13 games and also posted their first shutout almost a decade to the date of their last shutout with both coming against Bath. In all the Riders would finish the season by blanking three straight opponents (Bath/Celina/Defiance) and accomplishing that streak for the first time since 1982 when they opened the season by shutting out their first four opponents of the year.
Five Roughrider defenders finished the season with over 100 tackles, led by Junior and 1st Team WBL LB Austin Giesige who tallied 136 tackles. Grant Keith’s 133 stops put him as the second highest tackler for St. Marys while first year starting linebacker Jackson Harris nabbed the bronze with 120 tackles. Rounding out the 100+ stops club for the #1 ranked defensive unit in the WBL were 1st Team DB Dustin Howell with 111 stops, and the conference’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Matt Patten with 100 tackles.
During their last WBL Championship season in 2008 the Roughrider offense picked up 242 first downs. This seasons Riders finished with 22 first downs in the Regional Finals against Trotwood-Madison and eclipsed the 2008 team in that statistic as they finished by earning 257 first downs on the year.
Sophomore kicker Gabe Vandever not only broke the school single season record for Field Goals made by finishing with 9, he also broke the career record previously held by Tom Walter during the 82 and 83 seasons in which he made 4 and 6 respectively.
Perhaps the biggest number of all to fall for St. Marys came this season for their long time head coach Doug Frye. With the Riders 43-7 victory at Shawnee in Week 3 of the season the Roughriders mentor collected his 200th career win and became just the second coach in school history to do so following in the footsteps of the legendary Skip Baughman who racked up 272 victories in his storied career.
Though the 2016 season might have come to an end, this years crop of players will live long into what is a vast and storied history of St. Marys football as they had a record year that saw the team finish with more then 10 wins for the 12th time in school history.
*Records compiled with the help of Paul Sadler, Rider Football Stats crew, St. Marys HS and their fantastic record keeping located here: Rider Football History