Local Sports

Thursday, October 04, 2012

TRAC Football: Stakes high for Findlay
By DAVE HANNEMAN

sTAFF WRITER

Over the years, Findlay High football teams have made more than a few trips to Toledo Whitmer's Memorial Stadium.

Rarely have the stakes been higher, though, than they will be Friday.

"We told the kids there are four weeks left, so there are still a lot of games and a lot of (computer) points for a lot of teams," said FHS coach Mark Ritzler.

"Every year is so much different as far as what it takes to get in (the playoffs). But we do know this: we stand a heck of a better chance of getting in if we win than if we don't."

One of Findlay's goals is to earn a second straight trip to the Division I playoffs. Despite a 5-1 record and the sixth-most level one points, however, the Trojans are 10th in Region 2. Only the top eight teams make the playoffs.

A win over Toledo Whitmer, 6-0 and earning valuable second-level points for nonleague wins over Detroit Catholic Central (4-2) and Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (5-2), would give Findlay's playoff hopes a huge shot in the arm.

Findlay's first trip to Memorial Stadium since 2002 will have huge implications in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.

Whitmer and Toledo Central Catholic are 3-0 in the TRAC; Findlay is 2-1. Central Catholic, which beat Findlay 56-27 two weeks ago, and Whitmer will square off in the final game of the regular season. Another of Findlay's goals is a shot at a TRAC championship, but for that to happen the Trojans would have to beat Whitmer, win their final three regular-season games, and hope Whitmer can knock off Central Catholic in Week 10.

Led by running back Vance Settlemire (862 yards rushing, 19 TDs), quarterback Paul Cosiano (860 yards passing, 192 rushing, 14 TDs) and receivers Jimmy Orwick (14 receptions, 257 yards, 2 TDs), Joseph Davidson (9, 173, 3), Austin Niswander (8, 180, 1) and Wyatt Krupp (8, 146, 4), Findlay is averaging 421 yards and 52.3 points a game.

But the Trojans will be facing an outstanding Whitmer defense that, through six games, has given up just 29 points. Only one team has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Panthers. No team has completed more than 50 percent of its passes, or scored more than one touchdown.

Ritzler has a good idea why Whitmer's defense has been so dominating.

"They are so strong up the middle," he said.

"They have two great defensive tackles in No. 91 (6-1, 285-pound senior Marquise Moore) and No. 75 (5-9, 265-pound senior Joenathan Mays). Those two defensive tackles are the best tandem we've seen all season. They cause so much havoc to the offensive line.

"Behind them they have two great linebackers in Linch (Jack Linch, 6-0, 210, senior) and No. 1 (Devin Thomas, 5-10, 180, sr.).

"There's a reason Whitmer hasn't given up more than seven points in any game. They have a lot of kids who make plays. They are big, they are physical and they can run."

The 2012 season was expected to be a year of transition for Whitmer. Not only did the Panthers graduate four first-team all-Ohioans and six Division I college recruits from a 13-1 team that made the school's second straight trip to the D-I state semifinals, but head coach Joe Palka left for a coaching position in Michigan. He took with him son Tyler, Whitmer's starting quarterback in 2010 and 2011.

But the Panthers haven't missed a beat under new head coach Jerry Bell, a Whitmer graduate and assistant at the school for 13 years. And a good deal of the credit has to go to quarterback Nick Holley (6-foot, 175, sr.) who has thrown for 590 yards and 10 touchdowns and leads Whitmer with 776 yards and nine TDs rushing. In last week's 37-6 win over Oregon Clay, Holley returned an interception 78 yards to set up a score.

"He's on the punt team, the punt return team, he plays defense ... He's a big-play guy for them everywhere," Ritzler said.

"He's just a tough kid, a good football player. I think he's the heart and soul of that team."

Whitmer's top running backs are Me'Gail Frisch (361 yards, 6 TDs) and Tre Sterritt (183 yards, 5 TDs). The Panthers' top receiver is 6-4, 190-pound junior Christopher Boykin (19 receptions, 271 yards, 7 TDs).

Ritzler expects Whitmer to come at Findlay much like Central Catholic did, but with a few twists.

"Central really likes to pound it right at you, where Whitmer will use more misdirection," Ritzler said.

"They are both physical, run-first type of teams with good offensive lines. They are similar as far as concepts and emphasis on the run, but their styles might be a little different."

A 1-5 Toledo St. Francis team had its best offensive night of the season in last week's 61-42 loss to Findlay. The Trojans were missing a number of injured defensive starters and while Ritzler could not comment on their status, most are expected to be in uniform Friday.

In other TRAC action Friday, Central Catholic (6-0, 3-0) is at Lima Senior (0-6, 0-3), Oregon Clay (3-3, 1-2) travels to Toledo St. John's (2-4, 2-1) and Fremont Ross (3-3, 1-2) plays St. Francis (1-5, 0-3) at the Glass Bowl.

Hanneman: 419-427-8408,

davehanneman@thecourier.com


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