COLUMBUS, Ohio – A stout defensive effort and numerous big plays offensively carried Ohio Dominican's football team to a 49-24 win over No. 21/24 Findlay on Saturday afternoon to give the Panthers the Great Midwest Athletic Conference title.
With the win, ODU improved to 7-3 (7-0 G-MAC) and now has a chance to make a third trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. The selection show will air at 5 p.m. Sunday on http://www.ncaa.com/sports/football/d2.
Findlay (9-2, 6-1 G-MAC) entered the day averaging 49.9 points per game, 525.4 yards of offense, including 286.8 yards rushing per game, which was all tops in the conference. ODU's defense allowed just two touchdowns and held the Oilers to 359 yards of offense, including 147 rushing yards.
The Panther offense, meanwhile, racked up 516 yards, throwing for 339 yards and running for 177. Findlay had been tops in the conference in defense as well, allowing less than 300 yards per game and 14 points per game.
Senior Grant Russell (Newark, Ohio) tied a school record with six touchdown passes, throwing for 339 yards on 16-of-25 passing. Junior Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) caught six passes for 180 yards, the third most yards in ODU single-game history, and three scores, and freshman Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) had a pair of highlight-reel worthy 35 yard touchdowns. Sophomore EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) ran for 141 yards on a career-high 27 carries as well.
The Oilers controlled the ball for most of the first quarter and took a 3-0 lead on their second drive. ODU responded quickly, starting its next drive with a 20 yard pass to Contini and a 21 yard run by Colson to move into Findlay territory. Russell then found Wyatt McLeod (Myakka City, Fla.) on a fourth-and-five pass for a gain of six, and Russell hit Contini on a fade route for a four yard TD with less than a minute left in the period.
Findlay answered with a touchdown drive on its next possession to take a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, but that would be its last lead of the game. Two plays later, Contini outran a defender and caught a 72 yard touchdown toss from Russell to put the Panthers on top 14-10 with 9:29 to play in the second quarter.
After a Findlay punt, ODU extended its lead. Passes of 12 yards to sophomore David Turner (Fort Wayne, Ind.), 20 yards to Conliffe and 12 yards to Contini moved the ball to Findlay's 29. Turner then caught a shovel pass behind the line of scrimmage and turned the corner to outrun the Oiler defense for a score to make it 21-10 with four minutes to play.
Findlay threatened to score before halftime, but Ryan Sayers (Austintown, Ohio) and Brian Hunter (Mayfield, Ohio) teamed up on a sack, and a fourth down pass fell incomplete with five seconds left to send it to halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Russell hooked up with Contini on a 60 yard touchdown to make it 28-10, and freshman Shyoun Petteway (Steubenville, Ohio) stopped the Oilers' ensuing drive with an interception that he returned 39 yards to the Findlay 29. Eight plays later, Colson plunged in from the goal line to give ODU a 35-10 cushion with 1:51 left in the quarter.
The Oilers crept back in, returning the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, then scoring on their next possession, to pull within 35-24 with 11:35 left. But ODU put the game away as Colson picked up 33 yards on three straight runs, and Conliffe outmuscled Findlay defenders for a 35 yard TD to make it 42-24 with 9:25 left.
The defense came up with one more stops, and ODU salted the win away as Conliffe had his second 35 yard score, again powering through the Findlay secondary to find the end zone on what was a short completion.
Senior Tre McIntyre (North Lewisburg, Ohio) led the defense with 13 tackles (eight solo), and senior Cameron Kohl (Hilliard, Ohio) made 10 tackles. Sophomore Gus Dimmerling (Perrysburg, Ohio) and Hunter each had eight tackles as well.
Contact: Scott Miles