St. Marys faces desperate foe in final week

PARKERSBURG — For the second time in as many weeks, the St. Marys football team will go up against a team stuck in a must-win situation. The Blue Devils’ opponent, Tyler Consolidated, is sitting on the bubble tied with Clay-Battelle for No. 16 in Class A, or the last playoff spot, according to the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission. The Silver Knights (6-3) need to pick up points fast to climb over the CeeBees and into the postseason.

TC’s Ryan Walton and his team would certainly get those points with an upset of the fourth-ranked Blue Devils. Clay-Battelle can’t pick up nearly the amount of points possible for TCHS as it travels to Madonna, who is sitting at 1-8.

Unfortunately, the Silver Knights’ visitors also have one more goal left to accomplish in the regular season and Tyler Consolidated is standing in its way. Jodi Mote and company are seeking the fifth perfect regular season in school history. With a win, the 2016-17 version of the Blue Devils will join the 1948, 1963, 1984, 2013 and 2014 teams in the annals of St. Marys High School history.

“It is something I am definitely emphasizing with the team this week,” said Mote when asked if practice would be business as usual this week. “With 100 plus years of high school football here at St. Marys it have only been done five times. It is a very special honor to have that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong they still have to go out there and earn the tenth win Friday night but it is still a special opportunity.”

On paper, St. Marys brings in a dizzying number of offensive weapons to turn loose on the Tyler Consolidated defense and aid the Blue Devils in their quest for 10-0. Will Billeter, Jaiden Smith, Dylan Gray, Braden Barnhart, and Ryan Miller are just some of the names Mote and his staff have at their disposal against TCHS.

St. Marys will throw the ball some. Billeter is more than capable of tossing the pigskin but the bread and butter of the St. Marys’ offense is a strong ground attack.

Rushing the ball has definitely been a key cog in the Blue Devils’ offensive machine and it appears things won’t change when the team takes the field in Kidwell. Miller, Smith and Barnhart lead a powerful running game responsible for close to 300 yards on the ground per game this season.

However, the offense isn’t the only point scoring unit Tyler Consolidated will have to watch out for. The St. Marys’ special teams have done a fantastic job of creating scoring opportunities this season when they are on the field. Both Barnhart and Smith returned kicks for scores in the Blue Devils’ last game against Ravenswood.

Barnhart took the first punt of the game back 77 yards for a score with Smith adding two more returns. The junior ran back a kickoff 77 yards to the house and then did it again with the opening kick of the second half. This time he covered 97 yards to find paydirt.

“This time of year is kind of neat to a certain extent,” said Mote. “Because you know how much you are playing for … the downside is if both teams aren’t going to the playoffs the season is coming to an end for one of these teams and it will be the last game the seniors play.”

Having said all of this, Tyler Consolidated also has weapons of its own.

Running backs Jace Reed and Tyler Anderson lead the way for the Silver Knights on the ground. Both have proved invaluable to Walton’s squad and have been an instrumental part in the team’s improvement from four wins in 2015 to six (or seven) this season.

Although running is the primary assignment for the two teammates, catching the ball out of the backfield also is an area the pair excel at. Reed put his receiving skills on display during a 57-39 loss at South Harrison earlier this year. The senior caught seven passes for 85 yards and four touchdowns.

Chucking the ball to the duo is sophomore quarterback Griffin Phillips.

“They throw a lot at you,” said Mote. “And your defense has to be ready and be in the right situation and responsibility and then make the play. Sound tackling will be very important in order for us to make sure the small gains don’t turn into potential big plays.”