KENT TARBOX / for The Courier
Findlay High School’s RJ Nunn (9) puts a stiff arm on Whitmer’s James Covington during Friday’s game at Donnell Stadium.

By DAVE HANNEMAN

STAFF WRITER

Somewhere, Findlay High football coach Mark Ritzler has video of every game the Trojans played this year.

But if he ever wants a CliffsNotes version of the 2018 season, all he has to do is pop in Game 10.

It wrapped up the year in a nutshell.

“It was a roller-coaster,” Ritzler said after Findlay fell 42-7 to Toledo Whitmer in the final game of the season.

“The highs. The lows. On the field and off the field. There was so much packed into one season.”

Findlay ended the season 4-6 over and 3-4 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.

Toledo Whitmer improved to 8-2, 6-1 in the TRAC.

Whitmer had a slight chance of sharing the TRAC championship, but that possibility was eliminated when Toledo Central Catholic (10-0, 7-0) beat Toledo St. John’s (7-3, 5-2) 27-0 to claim the outright title.

Still, it was a win-win situation for the Panthers, who took advantage of three Findlay turnovers and some pivotal penalties on the Trojans to roll up a 35-0 halftime lead.

“There was that chance that if St. John’s got the upset we might share (the title). If not we’d still get a home playoff game with a win,” said Whitmer coach Ken Winters.

“That was what matters. That was what we were kind of focusing on going in.”

Friday’s win elevated Whitmer from fourth to third in the Division I Region 2 computer rankings. The Panthers will host Westerville Central on Friday in a Region 2 playoff opener.

The stats from Friday’s game show one thing. The scoreboard showed another.

Both teams had 15 first downs.

Looking to bulk its running game, Findlay went less and less with its traditional spread formation and brought quarterback Pat Dillon up under center behind an unbalanced line.

The Trojans actually had a 166-135 advantage to yards rushing and 278-263 edge in total yards.

Whitmer was opportunistic to a fault, though.

Drake Sturdevant returned an interception 26 yards for one score and Whitmer used two other picks for great field position. Four of Whitmer’s five scoring drives were 40 yards or shorter and all four were accomplished in three plays or less.

Junior quarterback Riley Keller, the TRAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, completed 7 of 15 passes for 105 yards. Dalan Layton caught five of those passes for 53 yards, including TD catches of 18, 20 and 5 yards. Keller also fired a 41-yard strike to Zach Walling just two plays after a shanked short punt gave the Panthers excellent field position at the Findlay 36.

A bizarre sequence following Whitmer’s first touchdown typified a Murphy’s Law kind of night for the Trojans.

Following the score, Parker Fetterman returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to the Whitmer 15. On the first play, Whitmer defensive end Cavon Butler, who turned down offers from Alabama and Ohio State to accept one from Kentucky, stripped Nunn of the ball and headed the other way.

Butler runs pretty well for a guy who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 275 pounds. He rambled for 60 or so yards and was still going but Fetterman, who goes 5-9, 158 is a bit faster, Fetterman caught up with Butler, knocked the ball loose and recovered at the Findlay 22.

The exchange cost Findlay 62 yards and an early opportunity to get on the scoreboard.

Whitmer scored two touchdowns in the final 3:33 of the half, thanks in part to Findlay mistakes.

One play after Carlos Negrin III picked off Dillon’s pass, Keller connected with Layton on a 20-yard TD strike.

A quick three-and out and another pass interference call on Findlay set the stage for Keller and Layton to hook up again, this time on a 5-yard TD pass with 1:24 left in the half.

“It should not have been 35-0 at the half,” Ritzler said.

“We’d have two or three plays in a row and do really well. Defensively we’d get some stops. Then, like a roller coaster, they’d make two or three plays on their side. When they had opportunities they capitalized and made plays down the field.

“We fought to the end, but some of the same bugaboos that haunted us all season got us again tonight.”

Whitmer went up 42-0 when, after an interception by Carlitos Sifuentes, backup quarterback Tommy Colbert tossed a TD pass to Devin Mauder.

Sifuentes went for another interception later in the period. But Findlay freshman quarterback Max Roth lofted a perfect ball just over his reach and into the hands of Adam Gilbert, who completed the 61-yard catch and run for Findlay’s lone score of the night,

Sixteen Findlay High seniors suited up for the final time on Friday, including Tanner Rickle.

Rickle, among the top quarterbacks in the TRAC, suffered a season-ending leg injury in a 28-21 win over Toledo St. Francis on Sept. 21. With the outcome all but decided, Rickle went into the game late in the fourth quarter. He took the snap and handed off to running back Jacob Rickman.

In a classy show of sportsmanship by both teams, Whitmer did not rush the play, and Rickle simply took a knee when he reached the line of scrimmage. Rickle then hobbled off the field after taking his final varsity snap.

“I was glad we could do that for Tanner there at the end,” Ritzler said.

“I want to thank coach Winters and his team. I approached him about it before the game and he said, absolutely. I thought it showed great sportsmanship on their part.”

“Tanner’s a great competitor, and when that happened we really felt for Findlay and coach Ritzler,” Winters said.

“It’s the least we could do. The TRAC’s a great league and I feel every other team would do the same thing.”

Toledo Whitmer 14 21 7 0 — 42

Findlay 0 0 7 0 — 7

First Quarter

TW — Layton 19 pass from Keller (Gibbons kick)

TW — Walling 17 pass from Keller (Gibbons kick)

Second Quarter

TW — Sturdenvant 26-yard interception return (Gibbons kick)

TW — Layton 20 pass from Keller (Gibbons kick)

TW — Layton 5 pass from Keller (Gibbons kick)

Third Quarter

TW — Mauder 4 pass from Colbert (Gibbons kick)

FIN — Gilbert 61 pass from Roth (Taylor kick)

TW FHS

First Downs 15 15

Rushes-yards 24-135 47-166

Passing Yards 128 119

Comp-Att-Int 10-19-1 7-17-3

Punts-Avg. 3-42.7 5-27.4

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1

Penalties-Yards 5-73 10-125

individual statistics

rushing — Toledo Whitmer, Keller 1-3, Myers 5-37, Methena 6-41, Layton 3-12, Scott-Foltz 8-37, Gunn 1-5. Findlay, Dillon 1-1, Rickman 17-76, Hamilton 4-0, Nunn 6-49, Fetterman 2-18, Mullins 7-15, Weihrauch 5-11, Salama 4-(-4), Tatum 1-0.

passing — Toledo Whitmer, Keller 7-15-1, 105 yards; Colbert 3-4-0, 23 yards. Findlay, Dillon 6-14-3, 58 yards; Roth 1-3-0, 61 yards.

receiving — Toledo Whitmer, Walling 2-53, Layton 5-52, Mauder 2-17, Hauser 1-6. Findlay, Gilbert 5-93, Fetterman 2-26.

Hanneman, 419-427-8408

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