PUNXSUTAWNEY — Leading 12-6 entering the third quarter, St. Marys broke free for three big running plays that led to three touchdowns and pulled away for a 34-12 win over the Chucks Friday night in Punxsutawney.
The first big play came just two minutes into the fourth quarter on a third-and-inches. The Chucks appeared to have St. Marys quarterback David Aul stuffed at the line of scrimmage, when he bounced outside the pile and scampered 84 yards down the sideline to the Chucks' five. Three plays later, Justin Quiggle scored on a three-yard sweep to put St. Marys ahead 19-6.
Scott Barber added an extra point, making the lead 20-6.
"We had them stuffed on that third down play, and they broke our contain," Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol said. "We didn't technically take care of it."
St. Marys forced Punxsy into a three-and-out but was called for a block in the back on the punt return, pinning the Dutchmen at their own 17.
On the very first play of the drive, though, Cody Baker ran off-tackle and took it the whole way to the house for an 83-yard touchdown run.
After another successful extra point, St. Marys led 27-6.
The Chucks managed a first down on their next drive but stalled after two incomplete passes and were forced to punt again.
Garrett Zimmerman kicked a perfect corner-bound punt for the Chucks, who downed the ball at the five, but on the first play of the ensuing drive, Baker struck again.
This time, he ran 95 yards for a touchdown, doubling his fourth quarter rushing total — an impressive 189 yards — and extending St. Marys' lead to 34-6 with the extra point.
"We lost our competitive edge with those three big runs," Nichol said. "On one of them, we even did a good job, we just lost our contain."
Nichol was pleased with the effort his squad gave for the first 40 minutes, but he wished it would have stayed in it, as he said the score didn't really reflect how well they played before those last eight minutes.
"We played 40 minutes of football against a good football team," he said. "I told the guys that we made some technical errors, but we looked good for a lot of that game against a team that's got a lot of rushing yards. We're 1-2. We really would have liked to finish that game, but we didn't do it. We just didn't make the big plays."
Offensively, the Chucks struggled to build any momentum throughout the game, except for a 67-yard scoring drive late in the first half that evened the score at six, highlighted by a pair of 29-yard passes by Zimmerman — to Luke Janocha and Alex Bevak — and capped by a four-yard touchdown run by Alex Fedigan.
"We struggled on offense," Nichol said. "They brought a lot of heat, and we had to make the big plays. We were expecting to execute a little better and run a bit better, but we've got to do a better job of blocking. That's just the bottom line."
After fading late, Nichol couldn't help but wonder if his small, young squad started to show a bit of fatigue — an issue that seemed apparent in Punxsy's opener at DuBois, as well.
"We're still trying to develop some depth," he said. "A lot of days, we're practicing with less than 29 guys, but the guys are playing some good football."
In the first half, Punxsy's defense was something to be proud of. After St. Marys marched 64 yards on its opening drive, Punxsy prevented the Dutchmen from picking up another first down for the rest of the first half.
Punxsy's front played a big part in stopping the Dutchmen, who are known for their power running game, from moving the ball. Linebackers Hayden Muth and Jamie Bush made several big plays and big hits to stymie the St. Marys running game.
"Jamie's pounding away on both sides of the ball," Nichol said. "And Hayden Muth has been around playing a lot of good football. He's always had some guys in front of him, but he was always capable. Now, he's getting his chance to shine. He hung in there and made some good plays for us."
The Chucks played hard for the entire 48 minutes, putting up a touchdown with just three minutes remaining on a three-yard pass from Zimmerman to Janocha.
On St. Marys' next possession, defensive end Josh Smith recovered a fumble, and some younger Chucks were given an opportunity to run a few plays, highlighted by a completion from Nick Paulina to Zach Bevak as time expired.
Next Friday, Punxsy will travel to Strattanville to take on Clarion-Limestone. Kickoff is scheduled for an unusual 7:30 p.m. start.