CHERRY TOWNSHIP — Penalties and turnovers again conspired in the first half to sink the Moniteau football team.
Those foibles have haunted the Warriors this season and were doing so once more in the first two quarters against winless St. Marys at home Friday night.
But Moniteau settled down in the second half, eliminated those errors and rolled up 20 points in the final two quarters on the way to a 26-6 win.
The Warriors (4-4) and Flying Dutchmen (0-7) were tied 6-6 at the half.
“All I told them at halftime was (we’re) the better football team and I believed in them,” said Moniteau coach Bob Rottman. “The better football team doesn’t always win, as we’ve seen in the past — we’ve been a better football team in some of the losses this season. I just told them to go out and get the job done and they responded.”
Moniteau has been crippled in games this season by penalties. Last week the Warriors were flagged 14 times and also had four turnovers. That led to a 19-point loss to Brockway despite Moniteau outgaining the Rovers by more than 200 yards.
On Friday, it appeared the same script was being acted out.
One of Moniteau’s first-half turnovers was an interception that was returned 17 yards for a touchdown by Cody Ritter that knotted the score at 6-6 late in the second quarter.
The Warriors were also hit with six penalties for 40 yards before the half. Two of those flags negated long runs.
Things were much cleaner for Moniteau after a four-penalty flurry early in the third quarter.
“We played a pretty clean half and it showed,” Rottman said. “We were able to run the ball right down the field.”
Moniteau rushed for 374 yards on 48 attempts.
Quarterback Chance Nagy got the Warriors on the board first with a 74-yard gallop in the first quarter and finished with 112 yards on just seven carries.
Cody Wise gained 204 yards and scored twice — on a 9-yard run early in the third quarter that gave Moniteau the lead for good at 12-6 — and on a 52-yard run with just 27 seconds left to put an exclamation point on the victory.
“Our ground game was working the entire game,” Rottman said. “They played tough, physical football tonight. Whenever you run for (374 yards) and you don’t give up a defensive touchdown, that’s going to win you a lot of games.”
The key to the ground game was fullback Nick Martino, who cleared the way for both Wise and Nagy.
Martino also got into the act with a 4-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
“He is by far the best fullback when it comes to blocking in the league,” Rottman said. “A lot of Cody’s runs, those are leads with Nick.
A lot of Chance’s runs, those are leads with Nick. Nick plays a heck of a game even though he doesn’t get a lot of accolades. He’s a heck of a lead blocker. He makes a big difference being back there.”
Martino was also a factor at linebacker on a defense that was stifling against the Dutchmen.
St. Marys rushed for just 18 yards on 22 carries.
Quarterback Todd Taylor did throw for 131 yards, but he was also intercepted twice by Trent Kelly.
“He stepped up with two interceptions tonight,” Rottman said. “They’re stepping up and playing good football Friday nights.”
For St. Marys, the frustration only mounts.
The Dutchmen did some good things, stuffing Moniteau on two fourth-and-short plays and causing two turnovers, but it wasn’t enough to offset a poor running game and some near misses in the passing game.
“You know, they are just a big physical team and I thought we held in there with them for the balance of the game,” said Saint Marys coach Tony Defilippi. “We struggled trying to move the ball. They stacked the box on us. We did a little in the passing game, but not enough.”
Defilippi said he was encouraged by some of what he saw.
“I’m proud of our kids and how they stood up to this team,” the coach said. “It’s tough getting on a bus and driving two hours to play a big, physical team like this.”