BELLEFONTAINE — When Clear Fork Colts’ coach Dave Carroll finally settled into a chair and took post-game questions from the media, the wear and tear of a long and glorious 12-1 season was etched across his face. When he talked about his players, however, that look was supplanted by a look of pride in a team that surpassed their 11-1 mark from the previous year, despite losing many key players to graduation.
“They rose above and beyond what we as a staff, who know them the best, expected,” Carroll said. “They surprised us in all those areas. They continued to work hard. They continued to come together as a team. Guys that needed to step up as leaders stepped up.”
The Clear Fork Colts’ greatest football season finally came to an end Saturday night, when they tasted defeat for the first time in a little more than a year. The Colts met their match in a disappointing 38-7 loss to the Saint Mary’s Memorial Roughriders in their OHSAA Division IV Region 14 Championship Final, played at Bellefontaine High School’s AcuSports Stadium.
It looked like the Roughriders were going to shoot themselves in the foot early on, drawing several illegal motion penalties. The Roughriders’ powerful offensive line, however, blew open a path for running back Ty Howell, who ran 78 yards for a touchdown to give St. Mary’s a 7-0 lead. Howell finished the game with 91 yards rushing. The Colts got it back with a second-quarter touchdown run by Trevon Trammell (13 carries, 49 yards), from the 7-yard line.
Then, the turnover bug that plagued the Colts in the postseason struck again. On the Colts’ next possession, they fumbled, giving the Roughriders a first down on the Clear Fork 18-yard line with 5:50 left in the half. The tough Colts’ defense stifled St. Mary’s, forcing them to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Ty Schlosser.
With 3:13 to go in the half, another Clear Fork fumble gave the Roughriders the ball in Colts’ territory. This one hurt more, as St. Mary’s drove the ball 41 yards. Roughriders running back Sean Perry (16 carries, 128 yards) took the ball in from the 1-yard line for a touchdown with 23 seconds to go in the half.
“Our No. 1 key to victory was, no turnovers,” said Carroll. “We moved the ball in the first half, but we had those two turnovers. Then, they were up on us.”
Even with that, the Colts’ were only trailing, 17-7, at the half and they were going to get their hands on the ball to start the third quarter.
“Then (St. Mary’s) defense stiffened,” Carroll said. “We weren’t making the plays, and the rest is history. Their offense took over and their defense did a nice job.”
The Roughriders shut down the Colts’ offense, allowing 23 yards in the second half — all of them via the pass. On offense, St. Mary’s quarterback Braden Dunlap relied on his ground attack, including Perry’s longest run of the game — 39 yards. The Colts had a total of 174 yards in the game, including 79 in the air by quarterback Jared Schaefer, who was 12-for-17 passing. He also ran for 41 yards on 13 carries.
Despite throwing only three passes and completing two in the game, Dunlap made them count. In the third quarter, he hit Perry on a 16-yard touchdown pass that was set up by Perry’s big run. Then, he followed that with a fourth-quarter touchdown toss of 20 yards to Howell, giving the Roughriders a comfortable 31-7 lead.
As the second half wore on, the Colts’ defense (with many players also playing offense) was clearly getting tired. St. Mary’s, with a larger roster, has many one-way players. The Colts finished the game yielding 425 yards — 389 on the ground.
“Our defense did a really good job for two-and-a half to three quarters,” Carroll said. “Our three big boys (Hunter Tollison, Mike Chillemi and James Watts) are never coming off the field, and that’s rough on a 290 or 270-pound kid. (St. Mary’s) wore us down, that’s their style. They’re such a physical pound, pound, pound team.”
The Roughriders got a 35-yard run from Perry to set up a 9-yard TD run by Schlosser (14 carries, 123 yards) late in the game.
With the win, St. Mary’s (12-1) and their coach, former Danville coach Doug Frye, will move on to the Division IV state final four, facing undefeated Cincinnati Wyoming next Saturday at Piqua High School.
“We were lucky enough to get some turnovers and take advantage of them,” Frye said. “Clear Fork’s kids, the community and Dave Carroll all do a tremendous job.”
It was the final game for Colts’ seniors Chillemi, Zach Homerick, Tollison, A.J. Blubaugh, Watts, Keith Stephenson, Jay Swainhart and Caden Flynn, who look forward to graduating next spring.
“It hurts now,” Carroll said, “Nobody wanted this to be over, but we had the most wins in school history, the most playoff games played in a season and perhaps the most prolific offense through the first 10 games. We‘ve won two (Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference) championships in a row.”