WILLIAMSTOWN - On Williamstown's homecoming, it was St. Marys doing the dancing.
Three second-half turnovers combined with several costly penalties by the Yellowjackets resulted in a landmark 22-17 victory for the Blue Devils and coach Jodi Mote in Friday night.
The Class A 11th-ranked Blue Devils not only improved to 5-1, but also snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Yellowjackets. Mote enjoyed several wins against his Little Kanawha Conference rival as a player at St. Marys, but never in 10 previous seasons as the skipper of his alma mater.
Photo by Michael Uhl
St. Marys running back Noah Spitzer is tackled by several Williamstown defenders during Friday’s 22-17 victory over the Yellowjackets. Spitzer finished with 75 yards on the ground as the Blue Devils snapped a 14-game losing streak to their Little Kanahwa Conference rivals.
"The monkey is off our back," Mote said. "It's Williamstown, it's the best victory I've ever had."
The game-winning touchdown by Derek Barnhart on a 1-yard run with 3:11 remaining in the fourth quarter capped a drive which covered 19 plays and 80 yards, and chewed nearly nine minutes off the clock.
Trailing 22-17, Williamstown's only offensive series of the final period started at its own 35. The Yellowjackets made its way downfield thanks to sophomore running back Dakota Watson, who gained 35 yards on five carries. With 1:01 showing, the ball was sitting first-and-10 from the St. Marys 17.
Following two straight incompletions from quarterback Jake Tracewell, the Blue Devils were flagged for a pass interference call in the end zone. Now the Yellowjackets were facing first-and-goal from 9 and 36.6 ticks left on the clock.
But on the very next play, Watson's short gain was nullified when Williamstown was whistled for both holding and a personal foul on the same play. The line of scrimmage now became the 37.
The next two snaps resulted in an incompletion followed by a false start penalty on the Yellowjackets. On second down from the 42, Tracewell dropped back to pass again and this time St. Marys cornerback Johnny Riggs stepped in front of receiver Gage Wix, picked off the attempt and returned the interception to the Yellowjacket 34.
"I was just playing deep and not trying to get beat," said Riggs, who was inserted as a starter into the defensive secondary in the second half.
One kneel down later and the Blue Devils were in celebration mode.
"This is a big step forward for us," said St. Marys quarterback Andrew Cosper, who scored on a 5-yard run to put St. Marys within 14-8 just before halftime. "Maybe this will get us out of this mental stage that we seem to get in where we get intimidated."
"Our line just blew them off the line of scrimmage there in the fourth quarter - they played just wonderful and our backs ran hard."
David Gray led the St. Marys ground game with 87 yards on 18 carries, while Noah Spitzer gained 75 yards on 17 attempts while adding a 4-yard touchdown run which put the Blue Devils in front 16-14 at the 5:42 mark of the third quarter.
Accounting for Williamstown's touchdowns were David Hastings catching a 9-yard pass from Tracewell in the early stages of the second quarter and Wix hauling in a 20-yard reception from the junior signal-called later in the period.
Garret Butler's 40-yard field goal as time expired in the third quarter gave Williamstown its final lead at 17-16.
"We just made mistakes," said Williamstown coach Terry Smith, who suffered his first loss to St. Marys in 11 meetings and only his third loss against an LKC opponent in 66 games. "And there at the end, we just lost our poise.
The Yellowjackets slipped to 3-3 as they enter an off week before resuming with a home game with Wirt County on Oct. 12.