Findlay at Shepherd
NOON, SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA.
What: NCAA Division II playoffs
Records: Findlay 9-2; Shepherd 10-0
Last meeting: First meeting
Findlay players filed into the football meeting room for the Division II playoff selection show not knowing the next step they would be taking.
Would there be a wild celebration, or would coach Rob Keys tell them when offseason workouts would commence?
The Oilers were blown out 49-24 by Ohio Dominican in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship game the day before, and it could have been worse had the Panthers not taken a knee at the 5-yard line in the closing seconds.
Linebacker Justice Jenkins, a junior from Westerville Central, said it was pandemonium when Findlay was announced as the seventh seed in Super Region One, even though the opponent would be powerhouse Shepherd.
“We thought we had to win that Ohio Dominican game, and after that we didn’t know how things would play out,” he said. “It was electrifying finding out we made it to the playoffs. Everyone was smiling — coaches, players, staff and family. We were jumping around. We had no idea what would happen. We’ve been after this.”
Ohio Dominican (8-3) had the conference championship trophy, but it was not ranked in the top 10 in the region. It lost to two playoff teams, California (Pa.) and Ashland, along with Penn, of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Findlay won national championships in NAIA in 1979, ’92, ’95 and ’97, but this is its first playoff appearance since joining NCAA Division II in 2000.
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“I was being recruited to play in the GLIAC, and I didn’t know we were going to eventually change leagues,” Jenkins said of the move to the GMAC. “The goal always is the same, and that is to win championships and to make the playoffs.”
Cornerback Francis Cutchember, a junior from Dublin Scioto, also got a jolt when the brackets were unveiled. He was in deep thought on the bus trip back from Ohio Dominican.
“I was just thinking about how to get better because I didn’t play my best game,” he said. “If we were to get into the playoffs, how can I elevate my game? Then during (the selection show) I told myself I’d leave it up to God. It was going to be his plan. I wasn’t going to be stressed. I actually was ready to get back to practice. We’re in and this is an opportunity to show people what we can do.”
Cutchember and Jenkins have been remarkable, the former leading the team in tackles (55) and passes broken up (nine) and the latter ranking second in tackles (50) and tackles for loss (seven), and first in fumble recoveries (three).
NW Missouri State at Ashland
Ashland (10-1) received a first-round home game for winning the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship, but it’s no prize getting a date with the Bearcats (9-2). Northwest Missouri State recently had its winning streak end at 38 and has won the last two Division II national championships and four since 2009.
Washington & Lee at Mount Union
Washington & Lee (8-2) enters this first-round Division III playoff game on a six-game winning streak, but is 0-4 in the NCAA tournament. Mount Union (10-0) has won 94 playoff games and 12 national championships.
Frostburg State at Wittenberg
Wittenberg (10-0) finished the regular season unbeaten for the 20th time. The hard work paid off not only in a home game against Frostburg (9-1) for the first round, but also another in the second round, should the Tigers win.
— Mark Znidar
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