By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay hits the road on Friday, heading to Toledo Start still looking for its first win of the 2018 season.
WHEN & WHERE: 7 p.m. Friday at Roy C. Start High School.
COACHES: Mark Ritzler has posted a 66-58 record in his 12-plus seasons at Findlay High. Corey Pargo, a 1988 Toledo Rogers graduate who lettered three years as a nose guard for Ohio State (1988-91), is 8-4 in his second season as Start’s head coach.
LAST MEETING/OVERALL SERIES: Findlay posted a 42-10 win over Start in a 2017 matchup at Donnell Stadium. That gave the Trojans a 4-0 advantage in the head-to-head series, which was first played in 1966, renewed with home-and-home games in 1984 and ’85, and resumed again last season.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Toledo Start (1-1) lost its season opener 27-24 to Clyde, then rebounded to beat Swanton 23-7 last Friday. Despite returning 32 seniors and 44 lettermen from a team that won a third straight Toledo City League championship, the Spartans were picked to finish second to Toledo Woodward in a preseason vote of TCL coaches.
Eight offensive starters are back for Start, including senior running back Legend Tucker, a third-team all-Ohio selection who rushed for 1,132 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. Senior Caleb Coyne and sophomore Jeremiah Beringer have been splitting time at quarterback in Start’s spread offense. Sophomore speedster Jamarion Gaines gives the Spartans the kind of big play potential that Ritzler has noticed in their first two games.
“They’ve been a little more pass heavy because they’ve struggled a bit with the run their first two games. That’s where No. 14 (Coyne) comes in,” Ritzler said.
“No. 8 (Beringer) has made things happen with his feet. He’s a bit more athletic, and No. 21 (Gaines) has certainly caught our eye. He has top-end speed and has done some nice things.”
Team speed is a trait of the Spartans, and has paid off several times.
“They’re an athletic team with speed everywhere and they’ve been living off big plays,” Ritzler said.
“They returned a kickoff for a score. They picked up a fumble and ran it back. They intercepted a pass and took it back for a score. They haven’t been a grind it out, churn it out type of offense. But they’ve been making big plays.”
Findlay is averaging 380 yards a game total offense, with 545 of the Trojans 760 total yards coming through the air.
“We’ve not been able to control anything on the ground,” Ritzler said.
“Passing-wise, we’ve shown we can throw the ball to different receivers and do some things down field. We feel, maybe this week, we have an opportunity to get some things rolling on the ground as well. We’ve installed a couple of new things that will maybe stretch things out a bit.”
Senior quarterback Tanner Rickle has completed 41 of 61 passes (67 percent) for 545 yards. He’s also rushed for a team-high 114 yards and accounted for nine touchdowns — four rushing, five passing.
R.J. Nunn has rushed for 77 yards and two scores in two games. Adam Gilbert, who caught 12 passes for 161 yards and three TDs in last week’s game with Upper Arlington, Parker Fetterman has five catches for 68 yards and Pat Dillon has six for 78. Findlay also got a bit of a break-out game from Isaiah Moore last week. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound junior caught seven passes for 112 yards and a score, and nearly broke two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
“We’ve slowly been building some depth,” Ritzler said. “And we should have some people back on the offensive and defensive lines this week. That should help.”
WEEK 3 REBOUND: Both of Findlay’s losses have been in overtime to two quality opponents, Hilliard Bradley and Upper Arlington.
“It was a tough weekend. It was a tough Monday coming back. The kids were a little grumpy and the coaches were a little grumpy, too,” Ritzler said.
“But one thing we’ve always done a good job of is focusing on the next week, the next game, and our kids, especially the seniors, have done a good job of talking about moving on.
“We talk about how it’s been just a couple of plays that can make a difference. Both games have been like a poster or the dictionary term of why, whether it’s the offseason or in practice, making sure that every rep counts, or studying film to learn one or two things more about your opponent that can help you on Friday night.
“If every kid here finds one thing that helps them do one play better, would that make a difference in the game? It could.
“If you go back, there are a lot of things we’ve done really, really well on both sides of the ball. But we’ve played some quality opponents, and against good teams you can’t make mistakes.
“We’ve been giving up some big plays, especially on third down and a few times on fourth (down). And it’s been in a variety of ways: by penalty, by long pass, the QB scrambling out of the pocket, by screen play …. Our emphasis has been on finding ways to get the other team off field on third down, and our short yardage efficiency. Those are two areas we need to get better at quickly.
“We’ve been close. The best thing that’s going to cure it is getting a win.”