COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Dominican football team registered four takeaways and a defensive touchdown Saturday afternoon, defeating Findlay during the Panthers' annual Homecoming and Hall of Fame celebration, 21-10.
For the third time in four games, dating back to last season, the Panther defense recorded four turnovers. In ODU's second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II National Showcase Game of the Week, sophomore Ashton Gilkey (Westerville, Ohio) was key in the takeaway department, as he recorded two interceptions to go along with five tackles and two additional pass break ups.
The contest opened with an offensive-friendly theme, as both Findlay and Ohio Dominican scored on their opening possessions. The Oilers (1-2, 0-1 GMAC), who nearly upset the No. 2 ranked team in the country Ferris State Week One, scored first with a 40-yard field goal. The Black & Gold responded with a quick five-play, 80-yard drive to take a 7-3 lead after sophomore quarterback Evan Ernst (Mason, Ohio) found senior Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.) in the back of the end zone.
Neither side could add to their total in the remainder of the quarter and on the first play of the second frame, ODU stopped the Oilers on a fourth and one on the Panther 17-yard line. Junior Jayden Davis (Springfield, Ohio) and freshman Blaine Swartzmiller (Attica, Ohio) denied the UF running back at the line of scrimmage.
Davis finished with a team-best 12 total tackles, including six solo stops. The junior added multiple pass breakups for the first time in his collegiate career as well. Swartzmiller tallied six stops, including a team-high 1.5 tackles for loss.
Later in the second quarter, an Oiler snap sailed over the their quarterback's head and possession was recovered by junior Dauson Dales (Defiance, Ohio) in the end zone for a touchdown. After one of junior Jed Quackenbush's (Newark, Ohio) three extra-points, ODU led 14-3 with 10:55 remaining in the half.
The Panther defense continued to flex its muscles in the quarter, as Gilkey recorded his first interception, with Findlay also missing a field goal in the frame. The UF kickers missed two field goals in the game.
Ernst and junior Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) connected just twice, but on back-to-back plays to result in the Panthers' third score of the day. First the duo logged a 17-yard completion. On the next play, Conliffe came in motion and received a short toss from Ernst before rushing around the right side for a touchdown, his fifth of the season.
Ernst went on to complete 19-of-26 passes for 230 yards and the two scores. Washington and sophomore DeAndre Clark (Dover, Ohio) were his main targets. The senior finished with five catches for a team-best 91 yards. Clark had an ODU-high seven receptions, covering 76 yards.
Despite not scoring in the second half, ODU's offense was able to move down the field and control the clock. Senior EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) gashed the Oilers for three runs of 10 or more yards in the second half as he finished with 53 yards on 12 carries. With his performance, Colson became just the fourth player in program history to eclipse 2,000 career rushing yards.
Outisde of a Findlay touchdown late in the third quarter, ODU's defense held the Oilers off the scoreboard over the final 30 minutes. Senior Gus Dimmerling (Perrysburg, Ohio) and Gilkey each recorded an interception late to help secure the win. Dimmerling finished with nine tackles, as well as a forced fumble to go along with his pick.
Junior Logen Neidhardt (Hicksville, Ohio) played a key role on special teams, as he averaged 43.6 yards over his seven punt attempts. Neidhardt had four of his attempts finish inside the Findlay 20-yard line, including two late inside the opponent's five.
The Panthers are now 2-1 all-time in Great Midwest Athletic Conference openers. ODU is also 13-3 following a loss since the 2012 season.
ODU will look to stay unbeaten in conference play when they travel to take on a familiar face in recently inducted Black & Gold Hall of Fame member Cris Reisert and the Tiffin Dragons. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28, in Tiffin, Ohio.
Contact: Tyler Jester