By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay High School plays its 2014 home opener Friday at Donnell Stadium when the Trojans host Grove City.
Both teams bring 1-0 records into the matchup. Findlay topped Anthony Wayne 36-28 in its opener; Grove City blanked Hilliard Davidson 6-0.
SERIES RECORD: Grove City is 2-0 against Findlay, beating the Trojans 38-10 last season and 59-41 in the 1999 Division I regional semifinals.
COACHES: Mark Ritzler is 43-39 in his ninth season as Findlay High’s head coach. Grove City has a new head coach in Mike Lanza, who has compiled a 132-118 career record in 24 seasons at Whitehall (17-33), Gahanna (90-49), Jonathon Alder (24-36) and now Grove City.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Findlay generated 478 yards total offense against Anthony Wayne, almost equally split between the passing (234 yards) and running (244 yards) game. The Trojans were both opportunistic, scoring their first TD just 2:36 into the game after Quentin Manns recovered a fumble at the AW 3-yard line, and explosive, with Grant Niswander turning a screen pass into a 52-yard catch-and-run score and Emmanuel Mogolu scoring on 31- and 80-yard bursts.
Findlay gave up some big plays as well, including 51- and 86-yard TD runs by Steve Zirkel (9 carries, 153 yards). Anthony Wayne successfully converted 9 of 15 third down situations, and scored one touchdown on a fourth-and-5 call.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Grove City’s mascot should be a bulldog instead of a greyhound. In last year’s win over Findlay, Grove City ran 75 offensive plays, churned out 394 yards rushing, and had possession of the ball for almost 35 of the game’s 48 minutes. Lanza is now running the program, but that ball control style is still there. Setting up in a traditional power-I formation, Grove City had a 33:50 to 14:10 advantage in time of possession last week. Defensively, Grove City limited Hilliard Davidson, a state semifinalist in 2013, to just 93 total yards.
“We’ve scrimmaged Hilliard Davidson over the years and the thing about them, and central Ohio teams, is that they are usually the most physical teams. Well, Grove City has stepped up to that,” Ritzler said.
“The thing that stands out on film, on both sides of the ball, is how hard they play and how physical they are. Their running back runs hard, their fullback blocks hard, their linemen block hard. … Defensively, they tackle extremely well, from the corners all the way up to the defensive line.
“They are just a very physical team, and because of that they were able to control the ball game.”
KEYS TO THE GAME: “The most physical team is going to win,” Ritzler said. “We challenged our kids. They can see what Grove City brings to the table. It’s right there in front of them on film. They’re not too tricky, they only line up in a few different formations, but they are going to come right at you.
“Defensively what we need to do is tackle. That’s what led to some big plays by Anthony Wayne. They had 48 carries for something like 249 yards, but they got 130 of those yards on two plays. We lined up right, we read our keys right, we got to the right spot …. You have to finish things off. You have to make the tackle. You have to put the guy on the ground. You have to do whatever it takes to get them off the field.
“Offensively, we need to hit a few home runs, especially in the passing game. That would take some of the pressure off of everybody. Grove City is very good at linebacker and on the defensive line.
“They’re going to play a lot of man-to-man, pressure our outside receivers and challenge us. Hopefully we can spread them out a little bit, make them cover more space, and try to get us a little more of an advantage.”
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