Times Bulletin photo
Van Wert’s Corey Clifton (3) breaks through the St. Mary’s defensive line for a big gain, during a game against the Roughriders on Friday, Oct. 16, in St. Mary’s
Times Bulletin photo Van Wert’s Corey Clifton (3) breaks through the St. Mary’s defensive line for a big gain, during a game against the Roughriders on Friday, Oct. 16, in St. Mary’s
BY JIM COX

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

ST. MARY'S - "Van Wert 43, St.Mary's 7" - many people probably thought that was a misprint when they first saw the score of Friday night's battle at Memorial High School. Defensively and offensively, things could hardly have gone better for the Cougars, at least in the second, third and fourth quarters. The win puts Van Wert at 5-3 for the season, 5-2 in the Western Buckeye League. The Roughriders are also 5-3 and 5-2.

It's been ten years since Van Wert has beaten St. Mary's, but this was no fluke. The Cougars dominated in every phase of the game. Van Wert piled up 442 total yards, St. Mary's 169. The Cougs had 16 first downs, the Riders 6.

"It's big," said Van Wert coach Bob Priest. "St. Mary's is an upper echelon team in the WBL and just came off of a big win against Ottawa-Glandorf. For our kids to win this way, it says a lot about our team - the entire team - offense, defense and special teams. I cannot say enough about our defense. For the second week in a row our offensive line continues to improve, opening holes for Conner (Massillo) and for Corey (Clifton), and our passing game is there. A lot of good things are happening."

St. Mary's had the first possession and they did the usual - Kyle Puschel left, Kyle Puschel right, Kyle Puschel up the middle. That got them one first down before they were forced to punt. Van Wert quickly picked up three first downs before quarterback Clifton fumbled the ball on the Rider 33. The next three possessions went nowhere, and it was 0-0 at the end of one. From that poiint on, though, it was all Van Wert.

Massillo pulled off a Houdini-like escape and went 42 yards for a touchdown with 11:20 left in the second period. Gyer Blackmore upped it to 7-0 with the PAT kick. Puschel got another first down before St. Mary's punted, and the Cougs went to work again. Six plays later Clifton hit Nathan Williams with a 50-yard scoring bomb - 13-0, Van Wert, with 5:56 left in the second. The Cougs pulled off a bit of trickeration on the PAT as kicker Blackmore threw to Williams for the two-pointer - 15-0, visitors.

The Roughriders got one more first down before punting again. Van Wert went 66 yards in eight plays, with Clifton doing the honors from five yards out and Blackmore booting the PAT - 22-0 at 0:57. The big plays on that drive were completions of 19 and 25 yards to Austin Fleming and Evan Hammons. Massillo and Clifton had runs of 16 and 17 yards.

The Cougars were hoping to put the game away with the first possession of the second half. That didn't happen as they went three-and-out, but so did the Roughriders. Van Wert then took only three plays to go 57 yards, the last 30 coming on another TD pass from Clifton to Williams. The PAT kick was wide, and the Cougs led 28-0 with 8:44 left in the third period.

Another Rider three-and-out, followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on St. Mary's, set Van Wert up at the Roughrider 31. Four plays later Clifton sealed the deal with a five-yard scoring run, and Blackmore booted the PAT - 35-0, Cougs, with 5:50 left in the third.

St. Mary's then put together its first good drive of the game, but quarterback Derek Roop's pass was tipped, then intercepted by Anthony Hauter at the Van Wert 42. The teams exchanged three-and-outs, before the Cougs added the finishing touch - that coming on a 25-yard run by Massillo on a fourth-and-goal. Van Wert fumbled the snap on the PAT, but even that worked out, as holder Clifton hit Donny Sites for the two-pointer. That made it 43-0 with 5:28 left in the game.

St. Mary's got a 47-yard TD run from Brad Sawmiller, followed by a PAT kick, at the 3:41 mark to avoid the shutout.

Van Wert held Puschel, the WBL's third leading rusher, to only 64 yards on 21 carries. Roop hit only 1 of 10 passes for 22 yards and two interceptions. Massillo had another banner night - 13 rushes for 152 yards and two TD's. Clifton carried the ball 14 times for 111 yards and two scores. He also hit on 11 of 20 passes for 229 yards and two TD's, both to Williams.