ST. MARYS - There was no fourth-quarter comeback this time around.
No. 5 St. Marys dominated play from the start Friday night to roll to a 40-14 win over No. 12 Wirt County in a Class A first-round playoff game at Imlay Field.
The victory advances the Blue Devils to play today's winner between No. 4 Madonna and No.13 Tug Valley in next weekend's playoff quarterfinals.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
St. Marys' Andrew Cosper, left, looks for a receiver as Wirt County's Justin Joy gives chase. The Blue Devils won, 40-14.
The last time these two teams played, also at Imlay back on Aug. 31, St Marys led 22-7 after three quarters, but Wirt rallied with a 28-0 fourth quarter to triumph 35-22.
But Friday night, the host Blue Devils, now 10-1, totaled 296 yards, all but 37 on the ground, while severely limiting the Tigers' offensive output to just 102 yards - 129 passing, but minus 27 rushing on 16 attempts.
Linebacker Robby Binegar led the defensive effort for St. Marys in the first half with an interception, two fumble recoveries and two quarterback sacks.
His pick on the third play of the game set up the Blue Devils' first score. After David Gray picked up a first down on a fake-punt run, three plays later, he scooted 14 yards around right end to paydirt at 7:30 of the first quarter for a 6-0 lead.
Then Binegar's first fumble recovery at St. Marys 23 not only thwarted a Tiger threat, but the Blue Devils eventually scored on the possession when Noah Spitzer dashed 22 yards into the end zone with still 1:05 to go in the opening period for a 12-0 advantage.
SM's Allen Pratt pounced on another Wirt bobble at the Blue Devils 20 to again stymie Wirt, and the Blue Devils again took the ball downfield for another touchdown, this time a seven-yard run by Gray at 4:20 of the second stanza, upping their margin to 18-0.
Binegar's second fumble recovery at 4:14 of the second at the Wirt 34 set up Derek Barnhart hammering a yard to tally a TD with 31.7 seconds left in the first half as St. Marys took a commanding 26-0 lead at intermission.
In all for the game, Gray rushed for 130 yards on 28 carries, while Spitzer added 105 on 18 totes of the pigskin.
In the second half, Spitzer's four-yard TD run at 3:19 of the third quarter hiked the lead to 34-0 before Wirt, finishing at 7-4, got on the scoreboard when Jon Cain sped 59 yards with a Josh Trembly pass to cut the gap to 34-8 at the 3:06 mark of the third.
The final period saw St. Marys reach the 40-point plateau at 7:34 on a Colby Brode three-yard TD reception from Andrew Cosper before James Ellison's fumble recovery for Wirt set the stage for the game's last points on a Cody Ferguson five-yard run with 5:44 remaining.