Panthers Run Past Greyhounds, 38-26
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Dominican's football team capped a remarkable turnaround with a 38-26 victory over Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon in the season finale, the Panthers' fourth-straight win to close the season.
ODU finished with a 7-4 record overall and a 6-4 record in the GLIAC, marking a five-win improvement overall from last season and a four-win improvement in conference play. For the second straight week, the Panthers knocked off a team in the regional rankings, as Indy (7-4, 6-4 GLIAC) entered the contest ninth in the region and needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The Panthers recorded their fifth seven-win season in the program's eight-year history, and ODU finished in a three-way tie for third place in the GLIAC South Division with Ashland and Findlay. Ohio Dominican also finished in a five-way tie for fifth-place in the overall standings, along with Indy and Michigan Tech, and owned a victory over GLIAC champion Hillsdale.
ODU's defense largely kept one of the league's best offenses in check. ODU forced three turnovers, equaling the total that Indy had committed the entire season, and allowed just one offensive touchdown in the opening 59 minutes of the game. The Greyhounds tallied 405 yards, but 82 of them came after the game had already been decided.
Sophomore Justin Bell (Groveport, Ohio) keyed the unit with eight tackles, a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception to stop a potential scoring drive. Junior Eisen Hardy (Pickerington, Ohio) had nine tackles and an interception and senior James Dews (Upper Marlboro, Md.) closed his career with a team-high 11 tackles. The Panther defense broke up eight passes and limited Harlon Hill Trophy candidate Chris Mills to just 19-of-39 passing.
Senior Mike Noffsinger (West Branch, Mich.), a Harlon Hill Trophy candidate himself, had his ninth-100 yard rushing performance as he finished with 108 yards and two TDs on a school-record 32 carries. He also had 36 yards receiving. Classmate Jeremy Fudge (Eaton, Ohio) completed 12-of-18 passes for 138 yards and also ran for 67 yards and two scores, while fellow senior Tyler Purcell (Franklin, Ohio) hauled in six passes for 54 yards.
Indy began the scoring with a field goal, but the Panthers answered with a field goal drive of their own. After a 38-yard return by freshman Abe Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio), Noffsinger and Fudge combined on eight runs for 26 yards to get to the Indy 13, and Chris Vortkamp (Cincinnati, Ohio) booted a 33-yard field goal to knot the game at three in the first quarter.
The Panthers then worked the quick passing game to perfection as Fudge hooked up with Purcell on four of five plays to reach the Greyhound red zone, then called his own number from the four and took it into the end zone for a 10-6 Panther lead early in the second.
ODU's defense forced a punt, and the Panthers took over on the 50 after a Greyhound penalty. Fudge ran for 11 yards on a fourth-and-one play, connected with Tyler Maddox (Lewistown, Ohio) to get inside the 10, and Noffsinger scored from six yards out to make it 17-6 with six minutes to play in the quarter.
Indy drove into ODU territory, but Bell came up from his corner position to strip running back Matt Ripp, plucking the ball clean from his hands and racing 55 yards untouched down the near sideline for the touchdown. It was Bell's second fumble return for a score this year.
The Greyhounds, though, answered with a touchdown to close the first half, and then returned the opening kickoff of the second half back for a score to cut the Panther lead to 24-20 moments into the third.
That would be all of the scoring in the third quarter, as ODU managed just a pair of first downs while the Greyhounds tallied six. Indy advanced inside the Panther 10 to start the fourth quarter, but junior Eli Kovach (Willoughby, Ohio) chased Mills, forcing him to throw a pass that was picked off at the five by Bell to stop the drive.
ODU's offense then took control with its most impressive series of the game. Running the ball on 13 of 15 plays, the Panthers marched 79 yards and chewed up six and a half minutes off the clock. ODU converted a trio of third downs, including a 22-yard strike from Fudge to Maddox on third-and-12 from the Greyhound 48 to keep the chains moving. Fudge's keeper from the two put ODU in front 31-20 with six minutes left in the game.
Mills, who had just three interceptions entering the game, tossed his second pick in five passes as Hardy stepped in front of a Greyhound wideout, returning it 42 yards to the Indy 19. A penalty knocked ODU back to the 34, but that just gave Fudge and Noffsinger more room to operate, as the duo combined on seven runs, while Purcell drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone, to set up Noffsinger's two-yard TD plunge to make it 38-20 with just 1:22 left.
ODU controlled the ball for 10:19 in the fourth quarter, running for 83 yards on 20 carries and attempting just two passes.
Prior to the game, ODU's 18 seniors were recognized on the field, a group that helped Ohio Dominican's transition into Division II and the GLIAC.
Contact: Scott Miles