COLUMBUS, Ohio – Keyed by two big kick returns, Ohio Dominican's football team raced out to a 19-point halftime lead and didn't relent, romping past No. 9 Grand Valley State 57-14 in one of the biggest victories in school history Saturday at Panther Field.
In a matchup of two undefeated teams, the Panthers (4-0, 3-0 GLIAC) took a 17-0 first quarter lead, led 33-14 at half and shut out the Lakers (3-1, 1-1 GLIAC) in the second half, 24-0.
Senior Justin Bell (Columbus, Ohio) scored on a 91-yard punt return, the first punt return for a touchdown in school history, and junior Abe Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) also had a 93-yard touchdown return on a kickoff, which was the longest return in school history.
The Panthers outgained the Lakers 470-324, limited Grand Valley to just 2-of-10 conversions on third downs, and picked off two passes in the end zone to thwart scoring threats.
After sophomore Brent Wahle (Pataskala, Ohio) kicked a field goal to start the scoring for the Panthers to cap an 11-play drive, the defense forced GV to punt. Bell fielded the punt at his nine and weaved his way around the coverage, racing to the end zone for the touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
The Lakers drove to the Panther six-yard line on their next drive, but sophomore Billy Eakins (Pickerington, Ohio) outjumped a GV receiver in the end zone for the interception to stop the threat.
ODU tacked on another touchdown later in the quarter, with Johnson powering his way into the end zone on a short swing pass from junior Mark Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio) to give the Panthers a 17-0 lead near the end of the first.
Grand Valley took advantage of a short field on its next drive, scoring on a 24-yard pass to make it 17-7 moments into the second quarter.
But the Panthers wasted no time in responding, needing just 1:52 to take a 24-7 lead. Miller connected with junior Casey Williams (Nashport, Ohio), who outran the GV secondary on a 24-yard touchdown.
Midway through the quarter, the Lakers took advantage of an ODU turnover to score on a one-yard run, but again the Panthers had an answer. Johnson took the ensuing kickoff and ran untouched straight up the middle of the field for a 93-yard return, pushing the lead back to 17 points.
With just under two minutes to play, sophomore Michael Snyder (Clayton, Ohio) had a punt downed at the one yard line, and sophomore Cody Culbertson (Galloway, Ohio) stuffed GV running back Michael Ratay in the end zone for a safety, sending the Panthers to the locker room with a 33-14 advantage.
ODU didn't let up in the second half. Sophomore Brandon Schoen (Olentangy, Ohio), who had been bottled up most of the first half, took a run down the sideline for 51 yards to the Laker 12, and two plays later senior Mark Nichols (Pataskala, Ohio) broke through a tackle and scored to make it 40-14 with 8:38 in the third.
Wahle drilled a 47-yard field goal, his second make from that distance this season, to push the lead to 43-14, and after Grand Valley muffed the kickoff, Miller lobbed a pass to sophomore Dez Stewart (Cincinnati, Ohio) in the back of the end zone for a score.
Senior Ronnel Spates (Cleveland, Ohio) capped the day's scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run late in the fourth.
The 57 points scored by ODU was the most Grand Valley has allowed since the 1987 season.
Miller completed 23-of-29 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson caught seven passes for 60 yards, while Williams brought in six receptions for 75 yards. Stewart also had five grabs for 76 yards.
Schoen went over the century mark for a third straight game, tallying 115 yards on just 18 carries, and Nichols ran for 65 yards as well.
Culbertson led the defense with nine tackles (3.5 TFL) and a sack, while Bell added seven stops. Sophomore Da'Twane Harris (Cleveland, Ohio) had five tackles and a pick and sophomore Anthony Smith had a sack as well to lead the defense, which held Grand Valley 23 points below its scoring average and 173 yards below its average offense total.
The Lakers entered today averaging 234 rushing yards per game, but ODU limited them to 141 yards, with 46 coming on Grand Valley's final drive of the game.
Ohio Dominican hits the road for a 6 p.m. meeting with Walsh next Saturday.
Contact: Scott Miles