BELLVILLE — The Clear Fork Colts’ football team are 99 miles from an unprecedented 13th win this season, along with an OHSAA Division IV regional championship and a state final four berth.
That is how far the trip on the team bus will be to Bellefontaine. It’s more than twice the distance that their Region 14 showdown opponent, the St. Mary’s Memorial Roughriders, will have to travel.
Saturday’s game, set for 7 p.m. at Bellfontaine High School’s AcuSport Stadium, will not be the first time that Roughriders’ coach Doug Frye and Clear Fork coach Dave Carroll crossed paths. Both men coached the Danville Blue Devils at one time or another. They know each other well and both will be ready.
“Doug Frye and I are old friends,” Carroll said. “When I was at Urbana and he was at St. Mary’s, that was our preview game every year. In 2002, we met at this level — the regional semis in Pickaway and we came away with it — an 8-0 victory over them. He is one of the most disciplined, toughest-coaching guys I know and his kids do things right. His school superintendent played for him. The principal played for him. The guidance counselor played for him. I think all the coaches played for him.”
St. Mary’s (11-1) thumped Van Wert last week, taking a 35-6 lead at halftime and coasting to a 55-20 victory. That set the school’s single-season team scoring mark at 547 points, and broke a record that stood for a quarter of a century.
The Colts’ offense accounted for 415 total yards against Clearview last week, committing fewer penalties than in their first playoff game against Bryan. Clear Fork running back Trevon Trammell gained 221 yards and scored three touchdowns last Saturday, and quarterback Jared Schaefer was 6-for-11 passing for 114 yards, running for a score and passing for another. The Colts did, however, lose a pair of fumbles and Schaefer tossed an interception, all in the first half.
“We’ve shown that we can throw the ball in all kinds of weather — cold and rain — but sometimes you can’t,” Carroll said. “Sometimes the quarterbacks are off. Sometimes the receivers aren’t catching. Sometimes the defensive backs are really good. A lot of things can go wrong in the passing game. That’s why you need a run game that you can hang your hat on, if that happens.”
Turnovers are unaffordable against a St. Mary’s team that sports the Western Buckeye League’s defensive back of the year, senior Sean Perry. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder was also named to the league’s first team as running back. He scored twice in his team’s win over Van Wert.
Perry is joined in the defensive backfield by senior teammate Carter Ballweg (6-1, 175). Ballweg set the school record with his 10th interception last week, adding a touchdown into the bargain. Roughriders’ junior Blake Kanorr (6-4, 265) is a WBL first team defensive end. Tackle Braeden Weitholter (6-4, 260), who forced a Van Wert fumble, is also a first-team player. Also having a great season is senior linebacker Eddie Fowler (5-10, 170). Jason Taylor (6-0, 235) was All-WBL second team tackle for St. Mary’s. Ty Howell (RB/DB) was a league honorable mention, along with linebacker Keegan Sawmiller.
Last week, St. Mary’s stifled the Van Wert pass rush — rated as the best in the WBL. The Colts’ defensive unit has only allowed one score in each of their two playoff games — against Bryan and Clearview. This week, however, they will have their work cut out for them.
At running back, Perry rushed for 233 of St. Mary’s 390 yards on the ground.
The St. Mary’s offensive attack is spearheaded by WBL first team senior guard, Ian Young (5-10, 200), senior center Mitch Seewar (6-1, 230) and senior tackle Nick Myers (5-11, 265). They will help protect St. Mary’s 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback Braiden Dunlap, who scored on a two-yard quarterback sneak last week. That play was set up by a 46-yard pass from Dunlap to Perry. Howell added a 30-yard touchdown run to his team’s effort against Van Wert.
The Colts’ defense was able to shut down the pass, especially in the second half, in both of this season’s playoff games, the key will be limiting St. Mary’s ground game. The Colts front line, led by Michael Chillemi, may be St. Mary’s biggest test yet.
“You’re going to see (St. Mary’s) kids come off the ball really low,” Carroll said. “They’ll hit you in the kneecaps — even if they only weigh 175 or 180 pounds — and they will dig at you for four quarters. That’s the way he (Frye) coaches, and that’s the way you do it. They’re a wing-T team and they’ll run, run, run.”
Clear Fork’s reliable field goal kicker Gabe Blauser and St. Mary’s Gabe Vandever — an All-WBL honorable mention — are well matched if the game comes down to a last-second kicking contest. This is an especially important option for the Colts, whose offense, unstoppable in the red zone during the regular season, has occasionally sputtered there during the post season.
“It will be a heck of a challenge, but a familiar one,” Carroll said. “(Frye) has really got it going on. It will be a lot of fun.”