COLLINS — Tied 14-14 at halftime, Western Reserve coach Mike Stoll described the situation as scary.
St. Paul outgained the state-ranked Roughriders by almost 100 yards in the first half, including just 15 by Blake Buckhannon on 10 carries.
Needing some big plays to come up with the win, Western scored four second-half touchdowns on plays of 25 yards or more en route to a 42-21 win in Firelands Conference action.
The Roughriders remained unbeaten, at 7-0, 4-0 in the Firelands Conference.
“They did a pretty good job of shutting us down in the first half,” Stoll said. “I’m really happy with the way the kids responded and answered the bell in the second half.
The coach labeled his team’s win over St. Paul as a good feeling.
“You beat a program like St. Paul, it feels good. They set the bar,” Stoll said. “It’s a big win. It just feels good.”
Western’s offense ran only two plays in the third quarter, the second resulting in a 47-yard touchdown run by Buckhannon.
St. Paul came away without points on its next drive, a 17-play effort that saw the Flyers turn the ball over on downs at the Western 12.
On Western’s first play from scrimmage, Buckhannon outran the Flyer defense for an 88-yard touchdown to make it 28-14.
Western continued its second half domination when Darren Johnson intercepted Joe Hinckley and returned the pick for a 28-yard touchdown.
Johnson added a dazzling 48-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter to put Western up 42-14.
Big plays through the air were key in the first half for both teams.
St. Paul scored the first points of the game on its second drive. The Flyers finished off a 14-play, 55-yard drive with an Adam Smith 1-yard touchdown run to take an early 7-0 lead.
The key play on the drive came on a 4th-and-7 at the Western 12 when quarterback Joseph Hinckley threw a bullet to Ian Welch to set St. Paul with a 1st-and-goal on the 1.
St. Paul decided to attempt an onside kick to surprise the Roughriders but they were not fooled. Western took over at the 50.
Two Buckhannon runs netted no yards, but on 3rd-and-10, quarterback Kyle Pressley found Buckhannon on a middle screen that went 50 yards for a touchdown. With 16 seconds left in the first quarter, the game was tied at 7.
The Flyers went three-and-out on its next possession and were forced to punt. Darren Johnson caught the punt at the Western 22 and sprinted up the left sideline for a 78-yard punt return for touchdown.
Josh Good converted the PAT kick and the Roughriders took the lead, 14-7.
Following a St. Paul punt, Western set up the Flyers next scoring drive by turning the ball over on downs on the St. Paul 37.
The Flyers used another key pass play following the turnover to set up their second first-half touchdown.
Faced with a 3rd-and-15 on the St. Paul 32 after a block in the back penalty on first down, Hinckley again found Welch, who staggered down to the Western 49.
A 40-yard yard run by Hinckley gave the Flyers 1st-and-goal on the Western 9. Two plays later, Smith punched into the end zone from 2 yards out. The Scottie Slauterbeck PAT kick was good and the game was tied at 14 with 3:13 remaining in the second quarter.
The teams headed into the locker room giving everyone in attendance the feeling that they were about to see a second-half for the ages.
However, Western survived two lengthy third-quarter drives on which St. Paul came away without points.
“They made some big plays. Their speed and their athleticism was the difference,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “Give them credit. They did a great job. They utilized their athletes well.
“We executed pretty well in the first half, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that in the second half,” the coach added.
Buckhannon finished with 174 yards on 14 carries and added two receptions for 54 yards.
Johnson tallied 142 yards on returns, including two punts and one interception returned for touchdowns.
Western Reserve visits Crestview Friday.
Smith led St. Paul in rushing with 98 yards on 26 attempts. Hinckley was 9-of-19 for 127 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
St. Paul (5-2, 3-1 FC) hosts New London Saturday at Whitney Field.
Score by Quarter
St. Paul 7 7 0 7 21
W. R. 7 7 21 7 42
SP: Smith, 2-yard run (Slauterbeck kick good)
WR: Buckhannon, 50-yard pass from Pressley (Good kick good)
WR: Johnson, 78-yard punt return (kick good)
SP: Smith, 2-yard run (kick good)
WR: Buckhannon, 47-yard run (kick good)
WR: Buckhannon, 88-yard run (kick good)
WR: Johnson, 28-yard INT return (kick good)
WR: Johnson, 48-yard punt return (kick good)
SP: Dankelson, 48-yard pass from Hinckley (kick good)