Local Sports

Thursday, October 11, 2012

TRAC Football: Findlay still in playoff picture
By DAVE HANNEMAN

sTAFF WRITER

When it rains it pours. At least it seems that way when Findlay High's football team heads north.

"Does it disrupt things? It does," said FHS coach Mark Ritzler.

"What can you say? That's Ohio weather for you."

A preseason pick to win the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, Findlay faced major matchups on the road against Toledo Central Catholic and Toledo Whitmer.

Strong, physical teams with good running attacks, Central Catholic (56-27) and Whitmer (56-25) romped past the Trojans on rainy nights better suited for power football than Findlay's spread offense.

"The two times we went up to Toledo we did not play well," Ritzler said. "It left a bad taste in our mouth."

As far as TRAC bragging rights go, Whitmer, ranked No. 5 among Ohio's Division I schools, and Central Catholic, ranked No. 1 in Division II, are 7-0 overall, 4-0 in the TRAC and appear headed for a Week 10 winner-take-all showdown at TCC's Gallagher Stadium.

Findlay (5-2, 2-2 TRAC) may be out of the race for a league title. But the Trojans are 12th in the Division I, Region 2 computer rankings, and head into their final three regular-season games with an outshot of making the playoffs.

"It's a slim chance, but we've seen over the years teams in lower positions make the playoffs," Ritzler said.

"There are five or six teams fighting for that final spot. A lot depends on the opponents they've beaten and what those teams do in the final weeks."

There is a distinct separation between the top four teams in Region 2 (Whitmer 19.3429, Nordonia 18.3286, Massillon 18.3143, and Canton GlenOak 18.0895) and the fifth (Avon Lake 15.8429), sixth (Hudson 14.95) and seventh (Canton McKinley 14.9457) teams.

There is another gap between the eighth and final playoff-qualifying spot. North Canton Hoover (12.9449) holds that position, but Uniontown Green (11.0214), Brunswick (10.8929), Elyria (10.2214), Findlay (9.4323) and Anthony Wayne (9.3214) are still in the equation.

Findlay's nonleague opponents will factor greatly into the final totals.

Cleveland East Tech has won two games and could add a few more with John Marshall (1-6) and East Liverpool (1-6) on tap the next two weeks. Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School out of Canada earned Findlay some second-level points with its first win last week, and Reynoldsburg (4-3) will be a heavy favorite in its final three games against Lancaster (2-5), Newark (2-5) and Groveport-Madison (1-6).

Ritzler and his staff won't be crunching the numbers just yet, though.

"We can't be worrying about other people," he said. "We have to focus on our game because we have three tough games yet to go."

Findlay's stretch run starts Friday when the Trojans travel to Oregon Clay (3-4, 1-3 TRAC) to face an Eagles team that in many ways resembles the Trojans.

"They're in the shotgun all the time now," Ritzler said.

"Their quarterback throws pretty well and spreads it around quite a bit. They run a lot of motion and they have some quick slots.

"Clay has a nice group of skilled guys. They do a good job of spreading the field and creating seams and openings.

"They're not a huge, big-play type of team, but they keep chunking it down the field."

Junior quarterback Josh Pennington, who has thrown for over 1,650 yards and rushed for over 400, spearheads the Clay offense. Senior slotback twins Damon (500 yards rushing) and Devin (300 yards receiving) Dominique and receivers Kyle Row (29 catches, 508 yards), Mounib Jomaa (17, 368) and Anthony Ramirez (23, 276) are the Eagles' top weapons.

Grounding Clay's offensive attack will be priority No. 1 for a Findlay defense that has allowed 152 points in the last three games.

"We're going to try to be a little more aggressive and make more things happen in the backfield," Ritzler said.

"But it still comes down to gap responsibility and making tackles when you're there."

Friday's game at Clay will be the final road trip for the Trojans, who host Toledo St. John's in Week 9 and Fremont Ross in Week 10. And computer points and league standings aside, Ritzler understands the importance those games have for his players.

"Playing St. John's and Fremont, those games mean a lot to these kids," Ritzler said.

"They just want to get back out there and play football. We still have a lot of reasons to work hard and to play hard."

Hanneman: 419-427-8408,

davehanneman@thecourier.com


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