COLUMBUS, Ohio – An overflow crowd on Homecoming witnessed Ohio Dominican's football team pull away from Hillsdale for a 41-27 victory in a matchup featuring the top two teams in the G-MAC preseason poll.
ODU (3-3, 3-0 G-MAC) racked up 520 yards of offense as the Panthers pulled in front 34-27 early in the fourth quarter on an 18 yard EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) touchdown run, then put the game away with a 13 play, 90 yard drive, capped by a Fred Pitts (Huber Heights, Ohio) goal line score with 49 seconds left.
Senior quarterback Grant Russell (Newark, Ohio) was superb, completing 25-of-33 passes for 381 yards and two scores while also rushing for another TD. Junior Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) hauled in nine passes for 161 yards and a score, sophomore Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.) had 87 yards and freshman Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) finished with 43 yards, a touchdown and a key fourth down catch near the end of the game.
Meanwhile, the Panther defense came up with the stops it needed in the second half to help protect the lead. After Colson's go-ahead score with 10:41 left, the Panthers allowed Hillsdale (3-3, 1-1 G-MAC) to pick up two first downs, but then forced a punt from the ODU 42 yard line with 6:07 left.
ODU then methodically marched down the field, chewing up over five minutes off the clock. Pitts had runs of 12 and 18 yards, sophomore David Turner (Fort Wayne, Ind.) had a 16 yard catch and Washington had a grab of 20 yards to help ODU reach the Hillsdale 24 yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-two from the 16, Russell found Conliffe on a slant for nine yards, and Pitts capped the drive three plays later with his second rushing touchdown to seal the victory.
Freshman Shyoun Petteway (Steubenville, Ohio) had a monster game with 15 tackles, a fumble recovery, an interception and a pass break up. Sophomore Camren Moore (New Carlisle, Ohio) made 10 tackles and senior Cameron Kohl (Hilliard, Ohio) added nine. Junior Brian Hunter (Mayfield, Ohio) had eight tackles and a sack, sophomore Gus Dimmerling (Perrysburg, Ohio) had eight stops, and freshman Aarin Smoot-Baker (Columbus, Ohio) had a sack as well to help lead the defense.
ODU started the scoring with a 10 play, 70 yard drive on its second possession of the game. Contini had a 23 yard catch on a third-and-five and Washington hauled in a 25 yard reception on a third-and-14 to move the ball to Hillsdale's 10, and Conliffe caught a four yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to give ODU a 6-0 lead with six minutes left in the quarter.
Hillsdale answered with a field goal on its ensuing drive, but the offense countered with a touchdown early in the second quarter after Petteway fell on a fumble at the ODU 44. Russell's keeper of 11 yards moved the ball to Hillsdale territory, and Contini got behind a defender and hauled in a 40 yard touchdown to put ODU in front 13-3 with 11:05 left.
The Chargers again had a response, moving 75 yards in eight plays to cut it to 13-10, and after ODU missed a 41 yard field goal, Hillsdale connected on a 36 yard kick as time expired to even the game at 13 heading to the locker room.
ODU's defense forced a three-and-out on the opening series of the second half, and the Panther offense struck quickly. Russell found junior Wyatt McLeod (Myakka City, Fla.) open down the ODU sideline for a 49 yard gain to the HC 10, and Pitts crossed the goal line two plays later to make it 20-13.
The Charges countered with a touchdown to even the score with 7:39 left the quarter, but after an ODU punt, Petteway picked off a pass – his third straight game with an interception – at the ODU 45. Russell connected with Contini on a 35 yard pass over top of a defender to the Hillsdale 20, and three plays later Russell dove across the goal line for a score to put ODU in front 27-20.
Hillsdale tied the game just over a minute into the fourth quarter but ODU again had a response. A 27 yard pass play to Washington moved the Panthers into Hillsdale territory, and two plays later Colson found pay dirt on his 18 yard run to give ODU a 34-27 advantage.
The Chargers had entered Saturday allowing a G-MAC best 327.2 yards per game and were second in the league in scoring defense at 21.4 points per game. ODU threw for 381 yards and ran for 139 yards, with 107 of those coming in the second half.
The Panthers averaged a season-best 8.0 yards per play in winning their fourth straight game against Hillsdale.
Russell was just three yards shy of matching a career high in passing, and it was his seventh career 300 yard game and third this fall. The 161 yards for Contini were the second-most in his career as well and his eighth career game over the century mark, eclipsing it for the third time this season as well.
Ohio Dominican is idle on Saturday, Oct. 14 and returns to action on the road at noon on Saturday, Oct. 21 against the 2016 G-MAC champion Alderson Broaddus Battlers.
Contact: Scott Miles