Story and photo courtesy of Ohio Dominican Athletics
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Six different players scored touchdowns as Ohio Dominican's football team got on the board early and often in recording a 57-6 non-conference victory over Virginia-Lynchburg in Saturday's season-opener at Panther Field.
The Panthers raced out to a 36-0 halftime lead and didn't look back in improving to 6-3 all-time in series openers and 21-11 all-time in non-conference games.
ODU's defense was as stifling as the humidity on the muggy afternoon, limiting the Dragons to 86 yards of total offense (1.7 yards per play) and eight first downs. The Panthers forced six turnovers, had three sacks and 13 tackles for loss for 55 yards.
The offense took advantage of great field position all afternoon, with an average drive start of the VUL 47 yard line, and rushed for 206 yards and five touchdowns. The Panthers average 4.5 yards per carry and totaled 319 yards of offense for the day.
In the first quarter, a 53-yard punt return by freshman Dez Stewart (Cincinnati, Ohio) would lead to a 22-yard field goal by freshman Brent Wahle (Pataskala, Ohio) on ODU's opening drive to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead. VUL threatened to tie the game later in the quarter, but junior Keith Wells (Gainesville, Ga.) blocked their 43-yard field goal attempt, and senior Eisen Hardy (Pickerington, Ohio) raced untouched down the sideline for a 55-yard TD that put the Panthers on top 10-0 at the 1:48 mark.
Moments later, senior Ben Patterson (Parma, Ohio) recovered a Dragon fumble deep inside VUL territory, and senior Mark Nichols (Pataskala, Ohio) capped the drive by running 11 yards for his first TD of the season, making it 17-0.
Patterson and his defensive mates then chased VUL quarterback Travis Ingram into the end zone, knocking the ball free and through the back for a safety, and following the free kick, freshman Tajuan Green (Columbus, Ohio) dashed up the middle 17 yards for his first collegiate score and a 26-0 ODU lead.
After an interception by senior Kevin Guthrie (Gahanna, Ohio), Wahle followed with a 37-yard field goal, and the Panthers would close the half with a 12-play, 74-yard drive, capped off by a touchdown toss from sophomore Mark Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio) to classmate Abe Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) with eight ticks left in the frame made it 36-0.
In the second half, sophomore safety Cody Culbertson (Galloway, Ohio) boxed out a VUL receiver to record his first interception of the day, and junior Ronnel Spates (Cleveland, Ohio) scampered to paydirt two plays later for a 15-yard TD. Hardy followed with a pick and nifty 51-yard return, dancing down the near sideline before being brought down at the VUL five, and Green scored his rushing TD on the next snap to put the Panthers in front 50-0.
Later in the third, following Johnson' 37-yard punt return, junior quarterback Kevin Hatrick (Houston, Texas) was flushed from the pocket, cut back across the field and ran 38 yards to the end zone for his first Panther touchdown to close out ODU's scoring.
The Dragons would score their lone points on a 77-yard fumble return with 2:35 to play.
Defensively, freshman Warren Shields (Richwood, Ohio) led ODU with six tackles (2.0 for loss), with Hardy and seniors Matt Grieb (Newark, Ohio) and Jeff White (Gahanna, Ohio) each making five stops. Freshman Da'Twane Harris (Cleveland, Ohio) had an interception, Patterson had four tackles with his sack and fumble recovery, while Wells also had a sack. Overall, 14 different defenders had a hand in at least a half tackle for loss.
Spates finished with 53 yards and the score on 12 carries, while Hatrick ran for 50 yards and freshman Kobi Cook (Indianapolis, Ind.) chipped in with 40 on the ground. Miller threw for 113 yards, averaging 14.1 yards per completion, with Johnson and Spates each finishing with 32 yards through the air.
Wahle impressed in his debut with the two field goals, seven extra points and three touchbacks on his kickoffs, and freshman Michael Snyder (Clayton, Ohio) averaged 45.5 yards on his two punts, including a 49-yarded downed inside the one.
Dating back to last season, the Panthers have won five straight games, their longest streak since winning six straight during the 2009 season.
Ohio Dominican will kick off GLIAC play at 7 p.m. Saturday as the Panthers travel to Hillsdale to take on the defending conference champions. Hillsdale entered the 2012 ranked in the top 25 in the preseason polls, but dropped a 30-22 decision in its opener Thursday to No. 11 California (Pa.). The Panthers defeated the Chargers 43-42 last year at Hillsdale.