By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay High’s football team is back on the road this week, making the trek down I-75 to take on Lima Senior in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference matchup.
Here’s the rundown.
WHEN & WHERE: 7 p.m. Friday at Lima Senior’s Spartan Stadium.
COACHES: Mark Ritzler has posted a 69-60 record in his 12 seasons as Findlay High’s head coach. Andre Griffin, son of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, is 11-16 in his third season with the Spartans.
LAST MEETING/OVERALL SERIES: Lima Senior amassed 751 yards of total offense and put a 62-38 beat down on Findlay in the 2017 matchup at Donnell Stadium. Findlay still leads the overall series 13-11, but it has been a roller coaster series of runs and rebounds. Lima Senior won four of the first five games, posted back-to-back wins in 1995 and again in ’96, the year the Spartans won the Division I state championship, and enters Friday’s matchup on a five-game series winning streak against the Trojans. Findlay won 11 straight games from 2002 through 2012, but has not won since.
“When you talk about a rivalry, like Ohio State and Michigan, you’d think they would go back and forth a little bit. But they got us five years in a row now,” Ritzler said. “We had their number for quite a while, but the tables have turned. Both teams are looking up in the league standings. We’re trying to find a way we can win and so are they.”
TALE OF THE TAPE: Findlay fell to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the league with last week’s 56-28 loss to Toledo St. John’s. The Trojans rallied from four one-touchdown deficits to tie the game 28-28 with five minutes left in the third quarter. St. John’s doubled its score in a matter of six minutes, though. The Titans intercepted two passes, returning one for a score, and sophomore quarterback Brady Lichtenberg, who threw for 499 yards and seven touchdowns, threw 16- and 17-yard TD passes to Thomas Zsiros and a 34-yarder top Sam Swift to blow the game wide open.
Lima Senior has faced a brutal schedule. The Spartans opened the season with Clayton Northmont (6-1) and Piqua (5-2) and faced the two big dogs in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference — Toledo Central Catholic (7-0) and Toledo Whitmer (5-2) — in their first two league games.
Lima Senior did win game three, 26-14 over a team named Christians of Faith (COF) Academy out of Columbus. The school and its football program, which did not even exist until last summer, is not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association and there have been questions raised about its legitimacy as an educational facility and its enrollment. That’s why in the Division II, Region 6 computer rankings, Lima Senior’s record is listed as 0-6 with zero points earned.
“When you turn on the film, you don’t see a 1-6 football team,” Ritzler said.
KEYS TO THE GAME: “They have some youth issues going on, and they seem to be trying to figure out the quarterback position. But they still have Lima Senior speed,” Ritzler said.
“Last week they went with No. 2 (Da’san Clair) at quarterback. He’s been playing other spots for them. He’s a good athlete. I really like their sophomore tailback, No. 6 (Mizhir McMillan). He’s not very big (5-10, 159) but he hits the hole hard and has home run capability. They’ve not gotten the ball to No. 8 (Jaleel King) a whole lot offensively, but they’re still throwing the ball down the field. He’s a good football player. He tore us up last year.”
“(Lima Senior) is a team with big play potential. They can hit a home run just handing off to their tailback. We have to contain No. 6 (McMillan) and we have to keep their quarterback from running around. If you let him get out in space he’s going to use his athleticism and make plays happen. We want to force him to be a quarterback from the pocket and have to make those type of reads.
“We have to stay in our lanes, stay in our gaps and we can’t miss tackles. One bad angle, one missed tackle could turn into a big play for them.”
Rashad Wallace, a senior, started the season as Lima Senior’s quarterback. Clair, listed on the Lima Senior roster not by position but as “athlete,” has been under center the past two games and has thrown three TDs passes in each. King has nine TD receptions through seven games.
To flip a phrase, Findlay’s best defense might be a good offense. Junior quarterback Pat Dillon, who took over when senior veteran Tanner Rickle was injured in a Week 5 win over Toledo St. Francis, has completed 30 of 59 passes in two starts for 356 yards and three TDs. And while Findlay managed just 77 rushing yards against Toledo St. John’s, the Trojans had a season-high a week earlier in a 42-13 win over Oregon Clay.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Ritzler said. “We’ve put in a few different wrinkles this week. We’ll see how they pan out because we need to keep their offense off the field.”
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