FINDLAY, Ohio – Ohio Dominican's football team went on the road for the first time in 2018 and knocked off Findlay 34-21 on Saturday night in the NCAA Division II National Showcase Game.
With the win, ODU improved to 3-1 (1-1 G-MAC) as the Panthers racked up 458 yards of offense against a Findlay team that had been surrendering just 311 per game. The ODU defense also held Findlay 26 points below its season average as well.
Making his first collegiate start, freshman Evan Ernst (Mason, Ohio) completed 21-of-28 passes for 309 yards and two scores. Junior EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns and senior Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) tallied 97 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Ross Thompson (Delphos, Ohio) registered 14 tackles, a sack and two pass break ups on bone jarring hits. Jayden Davis (Springfield, Ohio) finished with 10 tackles and a pick, and senior Nick Isaacs (Cincinnati, Ohio) had two sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss.
The defense forced a three-and-out on the game's opening possession, capped by a sack by Isaacs, and the offense needed just three plays to strike. Contini got loose in the Findlay secondary and eluded several would-be tacklers for a 63 yard touchdown to get the Panthers in front 7-0 less than three minutes in.
The defense continued to stand tall later in the quarter after the Oilers reached the ODU 31 yard. The Panthers brought pressure, forcing an incompletion and a turnover on downs.
Yet again the defense made a play early in the second quarter as junior Alessio Amato (Zanesville, Ohio) picked off an Oiler pass near midfield. Ernst found sophomore Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) behind the Findlay defense for a 49 yard pass on the next play to the UF three, and Colson plunged in two plays later to make the lead 14-0 with 11:58 to play in the quarter.
Findlay scored to make it 14-7, but the Panthers struck right back. A 22 yard pass to junior Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.) and a 21 yard run by Colson helped move the ball to the UF 10, and sophomore Fred Pitts (Huber Heights, Ohio) scored on the following play to make it 21-7 with 5:35 left in the half.
The Panthers were turned away in the Findlay red zone late in the second quarter, though, and after a turnover on ODU's first possession of the second half, the Oilers trimmed the lead to 21-14 on a touchdown run with 12:47 to play in the third quarter.
ODU didn't need long to respond, though. A 47 yard pass to Turner set up a nine yard TD toss to senior Wyatt McLeod (Myakka City, Fla.), extending the lead to 28-14 with 11:23 in the quarter.
The Oilers then marched downfield, chewing up 8:01 on the clock and reaching the goal line, but the defense came up with stops on third and fourth down from inside the two yard line to force another turnover on downs.
Backed up on its goal line, Ernst delivered a 12 yard strike to Washington on a third-and-10 play to get the drive going. Facing a second-and-21 later in the drive, Colson broke loose straight up the middle and bounced outside, outracing the defense down the ODU sideline for a 58 yard touchdown, bumping the lead to 34-14 early in the fourth. That capped off a 14-play, 99-yard drive for the Panthers.
Findlay cut the score to 34-21 with 6:09 left, but the Panther defense made two more stands. Davis picked off a pass in the end zone and freshman Ashton Gilkey (Columbus, Ohio) picked one off near the goal line to seal the victory.
Ohio Dominican returns home to host Alderson Broaddus at noon Saturday in Panther Stadium.
Contact: Scott Miles