By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay kicks off its 118th season of football on Friday when the Trojans travel to Anthony Wayne for a nonconference matchup.
Here’s a look at Findlay High’s 2016 opener:
WHEN & WHERE: 7 p.m. Friday at AW’s Schaller Stadium.
COACHES: Mark Ritzler is beginning his 11th season as Findlay’s head coach with a 55-46 career record. Anthony Wayne has a new head coach in Andy Brungard, a 2005 University of Findlay graduate who the past seven years was the defensive coordinator for Perrysburg’s highly-successful program. Brungard was hired for the job when Craig Smith, the winningest coach in Anthony Wayne history (107-88) stepped down after the 2015 season.
LAST MEETING/OVERALL SERIES: Findlay blanked the Generals 41-0 in last season’s opener. The Trojans are 3-0 against Anthony Wayne since the two schools began this season-opening series in 2013.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Findlay was 6-4 last season. The Trojans started 5-0, then lost four straight to Toledo St. John’s (6-4), Lima Senior (9-3), Division III state runner-up Toledo Central Catholic (12-3) and Toledo Whitmer (9-3) before capping the season with a 59-35 win over Fremont Ross. The Trojans averaged 31.6 points a game and allowed 21.4.
Anthony Wayne is coming off a 4-6 season that included a fifth-place finish (3-4) in the Northern Lakes League. The Generals return eight offensive starters and 20 total lettermen from a team that averaged 25.2 points a game and allowed 27.0.
KEYS TO THE GAME: With nine starters returning on defense, Findlay’s focus will be on containing first-team all-NLL running back Evan Brown, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior who rushed for 1,257 yards, averaged 9 yards per carry and scored 14 TD last season.
“He’s the key. He’s their home run hitter. We have to keep him bottled up,” Ritzler said. “If he gets out in space, we’re not going to catch him. He has that type of game-breaking speed.”
As far as Ritzler is concerned, it all starts up front where senior Alex Vogel (6-1, 230) and junior Nathan Barney (6-3, 240) anchor a solid offensive line.
“Watching them on film and going up and seeing them live in scrimmages, probably the most impressive part of their team right now is watching their offensive line,” Ritzler said.
“They get after people and they finish plays. They keep their feet moving and they’re looking to put their guy on the ground on each play. We have to make sure we’re tough up front. We have to hold our own and then get to No. 1 (Brown).”
Anthony Wayne also returns Isaac Smith, last year’s starting quarterback. But Smith has been moved to wide receiver as Brungard switches the offense from the Wing-T look to the spread, the same offense Findlay runs.
“They still have some of the Wing-T principles in there, some jet motion where they’ll hand off to the guy or fake the hand-off and run the option,” Ritzler said. “It still comes down to reading your keys, reading the guard, hitting the guy across from you, protecting the linebackers … all that stuff. It’s the same (defensive) philosophy no matter what offense you’re going up against.”
Offensively, quarterback Tre Miller (1,414 yards passing, 250 rushing, 19 total TDs) and offensive lineman Dewey Lee are Findlay’s only returning full-time starters. D’on Stinson (5-10, 210, sr.) did rush for 689 yards and three TDs as a power back to complement speedster Manny Mogolu (1,148 yards, 14 TDs). Kyle Nunn, a second-team all-Ohio defensive back, saw time on offense as well, catching 18 passes for 198 yards and three scores.
“What we’ve seen so far is that we’re not really a big-play offensive team,” Ritzler said. “We’ll have to grind things out a little more. We have to be able to run the football and we have to be able to run some clock. We can’t have turnovers and we have to stay out of second-and-long, third-and-long, so we have to make sure we’re picking something up on first down.”
FINAL WORD: Practice prepares players for games. Scrimmages enlighten them. Friday, it all becomes real under the opening night lights.
“In scrimmages we saw some good things, we saw some bad things,” Ritzler said. “But you’re not game planning in scrimmages. You’re not doing a lot of Xs and Os stuff. You’re mostly working on fundamentals and technique and things like that.
“Now we’re limiting things to what we want to focus on, and fine tuning those things we’re doing the best right now.”
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