CANTON, Ohio – Ohio Dominican's football team dodged a lightning delay and a resilient Walsh team to earn a 33-20 road victory in Canton's Fawcett Stadium, remaining unbeaten on the season at 5-0 (4-0 GLIAC).
ODU fought back from a 14-13 halftime deficit by scoring 13 straight points after intermission, sat around for an hour as lightning, thunder and heavy rain descended on Stark County, then fended off a Walsh fourth quarter rally.
The Panthers came into tonight's game ranked No. 23 in the AFCA Top 25 and No. 18 in the D2Football.com poll. The victory was ODU's tenth consecutive win, dating back to last season, and is the second-longest streak in the nation.
ODU outgained Walsh (1-4, 1-3 GLIAC) 511-370 and reeled off 94 plays, the second-most in school history, but committed two turnovers inside the Walsh 10 and converted just 4-of-18 third downs.
Senior Mark Nichols (Pataskala, Ohio) rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns and also caught three passes. He set a school-record with his 33 rushing attempts. Sophomore Brandon Schoen (Olentangy, Ohio) chipped in with 123 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown and also had 79 yards receiving. It was the third time in the last four games the duo has surpassed 100 rushing yards.
Junior quarterback Mark Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio) completed 23-of-35 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Ronald McCloud (Cleveland, Ohio) caught 10 passes for 97 yards and a score and sophomore Dez Stewart (Cincinnati, Ohio) caught five passes as well.
Sophomore Warren Shields (Richwood, Ohio) led the defense with 12 tackles, sophomore Brad McCurdy (Columbus, Ohio) had eight stops and sophomore Billy Eakins (Pickerington, Ohio) came away with his third interception of the year to pace the defense.
Sophomore Brent Wahle (Pataskala, Ohio) set a school-record by hitting four field goals as well.
Trailing 14-13, Nichols took the opening kickoff of the second half, a squib kick, back 70 yards to the Walsh 15, setting up Wahle's third field goal of the day. The kick return was tied for the fourth longest in school history.
Eakins then stopped a Walsh drive with his interception, and later in the quarter the defense held Walsh on downs to give the ball back to the offense on its own 40 with two minutes to play in the quarter. Schoen broke loose for a 49-yard run, and two plays later Nichols scored from six yards out to give the Panthers a 23-14 lead late in the quarter.
The defense then forced a three-and-out, and senior Justin Bell (Columbus, Ohio) danced down the sideline for a 38-yard return to the Cavalier 26. Wahle capped the drive with his fourth field goal of the day, a school record for most makes in a game, to make it 26-14 with 13:26 left in the fourth.
Before the kickoff, though, lightning struck in the area, followed by heavy rains, resulting in a delay that lasted just over an hour.
Walsh came out of the delay with the football on its own 25, and needed just one play to strike on a 75-yard pass. Paul Kempe tossed to running back Justin Keith behind the line of scrimmage, who launched a pass downfield to Jerald Robinson for a score.
That cut it to 26-20, but ODU blocked the extra point.
The Panthers marched deep into Walsh territory, but facing a fourth-and-one from the six, mishandled a snap and turned it over to the Cavaliers. However, the defense came up with a stop, and Nichols picked up 62 yards rushing and receiving on the next ODU drive, capping it off with a one-yard jump over the pile for a score.
That gave the Panthers a 33-20 lead with 4:11 left, and though Walsh would advance into ODU territory, sophomore Cody Culbertson (Galloway, Ohio) sacked Kempe on fourth down to seal the Panther victory.
Both teams got off to a slow start in the game, with the Panthers coming up empty in the Walsh red zone late in the first quarter. The Cavaliers would get going first, marching down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard drive, scoring on Kempe's keeper from four yards out to take a 7-0 lead with just over a minute left in the first.
The Panthers then had a touchdown called back on their next drive, as Schoen caught a screen pass against a Walsh blitz and raced 60 yards to the end zone. However, the trail official ruled he lost control of the ball before crossing the plane, resulting in a touchback.
ODU's defense came up with a stop, though, and the offense went back to work. Facing a fourth-and-four, Miller lofted a pass perfectly down the right sideline to McCloud for a 28-yard gain to the Walsh five. Three plays later, Miller rolled left and connected with McCloud again in the front of the end zone for the score, knotting it at 7-7 with 9:31 in the second.
Walsh came back with a score of its own to take a 14-7 lead with just under six minutes to play in the quarter, but Wahle hit field goals from 45 and 36 yards to close the half and cut the ODU deficit to 14-13 at intermission.
The Panthers rushed for 262 yards and threw for 249 in the game.
Ohio Dominican remains on the road for a 1 p.m. meeting with Ashland next Saturday.
Contact: Scott Miles