By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay kicks off its 116th season of football on Friday when the Trojans travel north to battle Anthony Wayne in a non-conference matchup.
Here’s a look at Findlay High’s opener:
WHEN & WHERE: Friday, 7 p.m. at AW’s Schaller Stadium.
LAST MEETING: Findlay topped the Generals 31-14 in last season’s opener.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Findlay finished 2-8 last season, the Trojans’ worst record since going 1-9 in 1996, Cliff Hite’s first year as FHS head coach. Findlay averaged 21.7 points a game, and allowed an average of 35.4. Four of Findlay’s eight losses were by 10 points or less.
Anthony Wayne went 5-5 a year ago. The Generals averaged 25.4 points a game, and allowed 25.1. The Generals have consistently been above the .500 mark under veteran head coach Craig Smith, including 7-3 records in 2009 and 2010, and an 8-3 playoff year in 2011.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Findlay’s Brandon Muehl returns for his senior season after throwing for 1,735 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013. Junior running back Emmanuel Mogolu (505 yards, 4 TDs) also returns, along with receivers Grant Niswander (69 catches, 687 yards, 3 TDs), Joe Hammond (31, 354, 2), and Dakota Feay. Linebackers Desmond Lino (62 tackles) and Doryin Thomas (42 tackles) and defensive backs Sam McGhee (29 tackles) and Nick Kiffmeyer (60 tackles, 1 int.) are also back.
Anthony Wayne graduated quarterback Jake Reid, who rushed for 35 yards and threw for 123 yards and two TDs against Findlay last season. But the Generals return two of their top offensive threats. Senior receiver Josh Schwerer, caught both TDs passes a year ago against Findlay last season. Sophomore running back Evan Brown rushed for 40 yards in his varsity debut against Findlay and finished the season with over 770 yards and nine TDs.
Anchoring Anthony Wayne’s offensive line is 6-5, 270-pound senior center Mason Zimmerman, who has committed to play college ball at Maryland. Zimmerman was recruited and signed by Greg Studrawa, a Fostoria native and BGSU graduate who has also been an assistant coach at LSU (2007-13), Bowling Green (2001-06), Arkansas State, Cincinnati and Wilmington College.
KEYS TO THE GAME: “We want to play fast, speed things up,” Findlay coach Mark Ritzler said. “But you don’t want to speed things up and not be successful and get off the field in three plays. That’s not doing the defense any good.
“Offensively, we need to be aggressive and physical all the way from the quarterback to the receivers all the way through the linemen, whether it’s an inside run or a screen. Defensively, we need to trust what we worked on all week, read the keys and get after them.
“That sophomore back is the key to their offense. He’s a good player, he has quick feet and when he gets out in space he’s tough to bring down. They also have a nice-sized receiver in No. 14 (Jamar Allen, 6-3, 190, sr.).
“They have some skilled guys on offense, guys who can do things when they get the ball, so they try to spread the ball around with misdirection to keep you confused, keep you guessing.
“I also think special teams are going to be important. When you look at offense, defense and special teams, I think that (special teams) was one area where we took one in the loss column last season. We need to have an advantage as far as getting field position or maybe making a big play on a return.
FINAL WORD: “We still have to run the ball better. We need to get a little more push inside and I think we can do a better job of blocking downfield at that second level,” Ritzler said.
“But the No. 1 thing we saw (in scrimmages) was how hard we competed. And when you come out and play hard, good things happen.”
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