Football Sacks Hillsdale in Regular Season Finale, 17-7

Aarin Smoot-Baker (Photo by Ralph Schudel)
Aarin Smoot-Baker (Photo by Ralph Schudel)

HILLSDALE, Mich. – The Ohio Dominican football team tied a single game school record with seven sacks and added two second half touchdowns to win its regular season finale at Hillsdale Saturday afternoon, 17-7.

The Panthers now have four games in program history with seven sacks, with Saturday's being the first since the 2018 season finale at Lake Erie. Senior Camren Moore (New Carlisle, Ohio) led the team with 11 tackles and two sacks. Moore now has 10 career outings with double-digit tackles. Sophomore Jaylin Garner (Shaker Heights, Ohio) added 1.5 sacks and four total stops.

Three additional Panthers logged seven or more stops, including junior Dauson Dales (Defiance, Ohio), who had nine. Junior Jayden Davis (Springfield, Ohio) pitched in with eight stops and senior Chris Green (Toledo, Ohio) tied a personal high at ODU with seven tackles.

Despite a slow start offensively, ODU took the first lead of the game, 3-0, on a 24-yard field goal from junior Jed Quackenbush (Newark, Ohio), with 5:50 showing on the first quarter clock. The Chargers (6-5, 4-3 G-MAC) scored their only points of the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, but it was enough to give them a 7-3 edge at the intermission.

The slow start for the Panthers saw senior EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) rush for just 20 yards in the first half. The senior though, tallied 130 yards in the second half to finish with 150 for the game on a career-high 32 carries.

Colson averaged over seven yards per carry in the second half, which included a 30-yard touchdown run with 5:48 remaining in the game. The rushing score gave the Black & Gold the double-digit advantage at 17-7.

The Panthers captured the lead for the second time on a 14-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Evan Ernst (Mason, Ohio) to junior Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) with 6:04 left in the third quarter. Ernst completed 16-of-28 passes for 154 yards, while Conliffe led the receivers with five catches for 54 yards. Senior Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.) added four receptions for 41 yards.

Leading by 10 points with less than six minutes remaining, the Panthers unleashed their pass rush on the Hillsdale offense. ODU had three sacks over HC's final two offensive possessions, which included a sack-forced fumble from Moore and recovery by junior Aarin Smoot-Baker (Columbus, Ohio) with just over one minute remaining. Smoot-Baker forced one fumble earlier in the contest and finished with two recoveries, moving him into an eight-way tie for the single game fumble recovery record at ODU.

Ohio Dominican won the turnover battle, 2-1, giving the team a plus-16 margin this season, one better than the previous school record for single year. The Panthers entered the week leading NCAA Division II in turnover margin per game at +1.8.

Overall, ODU held a 300-234 advantage in total offense. The Chargers, who came in averaging 155 yards on the ground, were held to just 46 net rushing yards. Behind a strong second half rushing attack, especially behind Josh Pittro (Dublin, Ohio) and Vinny Verbiar (Aurora, Ohio) on the right side of the line, the Panthers finished with 146 rushing yards.

The Panthers finish the regular season with a 7-2 overall record, including a 6-1 mark in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. ODU finished second in the final G-MAC standings, their third consecutive top-two finish.

Ohio Dominican will now have to see what the future will hold. The Panthers entered the week No. 10 in the Super One Regional Rankings, which gives them an outside chance to qualify for the national playoffs when the selection show takes place at 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 17, on ncaa.com.

The Black & Gold are also in play for the America's Crossroads Bowl if they do not qualify for the playoffs. The bowl game will take place in Hobart, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Contact: Tyler Jester

jestert@ohiodominican.edu