By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay kicks off its 120th season of football on Friday when the Trojans travel to Hilliard Bradley for a nonconference matchup.
Here’s a look at Findlay High’s 2018 opener.
WHEN & WHERE: At Hilliard Bradley Jaguar Stadium. Game time is 7: 30 p.m.
COACHES: Mark Ritzler is beginning his 13th season as Findlay’s head coach with a 66-56 career record. Mike LoParo is beginning his eighth year at Bradley where he has a 49-24 record.
LAST MEETING/OVERALL SERIES: In the first-ever meeting between the two schools, Hilliard Bradley came to Donnell Stadium last season and posted a 55-20 win over the Trojans.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Findlay was 4-6 last season and finished in a tie for fourth (3-4) in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. Hilliard Bradley won a second straight Ohio Capital Conference-Cardinal Division championship (6-0), went 11-1 overall, and reached the second round of the Division I regional playoffs.
“They went 10-0 (in the regular season), they made the second round of the playoffs … you can tell that is a very confident program right now,” Ritzler said.
“Yes, they did lose some key starters from last year. But their other kids got a lot of experience. That’s a program that right now looks to reload every year.”
PERSONNEL: Offensively, Findlay returns three key starters in quarterback Tanner Rickle (1,370 yards passing, 575 yards rushing, 25 total TDs), receiver Adam Gilbert (31 receptions, 415 yards, 6 TDs) and Steven Gerdeman, a three-year starter at center.
Findlay is a bit young on defense, but can count on a number of returning starters like defensive ends Khail Stokes (7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) and Dawson Brunner (231/2 tackles, 21/2 for loss), linebackers Aiden Eubanks (131/2 tackles), Brandon Hamilton (13 tackles) and Pat Dillon (24 tackles, 1 int.) and defensive backs Parker Fetterman (371/2 tackles, 4 int.), Moses Gaines (261/2 tackles, 3 int.) and Owen Mullins (151/2 tackles).
Graduation cost Bradley the high-powered talents of second-team all-Ohio quarterback Josh Stewart (2,515 yards passing, 512 rushing, 36 total TDs), first-team all-Ohio receiver Daevon Anderson (65 recpts., 1,242 yards, 13 TDs) and Purdue-bound end Kory Taylor (55 recpts., 911 yards, 9 TDs).
Senior Griffin Veil, Stewart’s backup last season, will step in at quarterback looking to continue the Jaguars penchant for potent passing attacks.
“They’re still throwing the ball,” Ritzler said. “(Veil) has looked very confident, very accurate in their scrimmages. They don’t have the big 6-foot-5 receivers they had last year. But they have good athletes who run well and they have a good offensive line that’s provided him plenty of protection.
“What’s been most impressive in watching their scrimmages is how extremely accurate their quarterback is when he has time to throw.”
Spearheading Bradley’s defense are senior linebackers Zach Hummel and Cannon Blauser. Hummel is a 6-4 245-pound University of Cincinnati signee who also starts at tight end. Blauser, an Ohio University recruit, goes 6-1, 190 and earned second-team all-state honors last season when he had 121 tackles, 151/2 tackles for loss, and three sacks.
“They have two very good linebackers,” Ritzler said.
“No. 22, Blauser, reminds me so much of (2018 Findlay High grad) Cam Dillon. He’s about the same size and has the same motor. He’s all over the place, making plays behind the line of scrimmage, making tackles 20 yards down field. We have to have a body on him on every play or he’s going to be around the football all night.”
OFFENSIVE KEYS TO THE GAME: “I think they will give us some chances in the passing game, so we have to take advantage of what they do,” Ritzler said.
“We have to continue to get Tanner (Rickle) time to throw and we have to find a way to get first downs. I don’t know if we’re a big-play type team that’s going to score in three plays, but we have to keep moving the sticks and keep our defense off the field.”
DEFENSIVE KEYS TO THE GAME: “We have to eliminate the big play. That’s what (Bradley) has shown in scrimmages,” Ritzler said.
“We changed what we do to more of an angling defense and we’ve been pretty solid so far. If we can do a good job against the run and eliminate the big play, I think we’ll give ourselves a chance against a very good football team.”
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