Findlay, Ohio – It's been three years since Findlay and Ashland met on the gridiron and six years since the Oilers had beaten the Eagles. Both of those happened on Saturday, Nov. 9 as Findlay stunned Ashland, winning in a route by a score of 53-18 in Donnell Stadium, the largest margin of victory over the Eagles in program history. With the win, the Orange and Black improve to 7-3 on the year while Ashland, who had lost just one game to an unranked opponent in three years prior to today, falls to 6-4.
The Oilers, who now have a record of 8-1 in week ten games under Head Coach Rob Keys, came into the contest ranked 13th in the country in takeaways with 21. The number jumped up even more on Saturday as Findlay flexed their muscle on defense, forcing the Eagles into a season-high four turnovers.
Findlay's first turnover came on their initial defensive possession when junior Cade Rogers picked off Ashland quarterback Austin Brenner and ran 38 yards to the Eagles' 43 yard line. Four plays later, the Oilers standout running back Brian Benson powered his way in from five yards out to put the Oilers on top.
Both teams traded blows for the next 19 minutes of game time and the Oilers would lead Ashland 13-11 with just under three minutes to play in the half. Brenner dropped back to pass and sophomore Christopher Jefferson regained the national lead in interceptions, picking off his ninth pass of the season. That pick also tied Jefferson with Jon Huffman (1984) and Andre Roberts (1989) for the most interceptions in a season in school history.
The Eagles were set to receive the kickoff to start the second half. Findlay's Chris Demler sent the ball high into the air to the Ashland 35 where the ball was caught, but making another big play was Christopher Jefferson who forced and recovered the fumble to give the Oilers the ball to start the half.
Again, it was another short drive as just four plays later the Oilers were celebrating in the end zone after a touchdown pass to Nate Slagel.
From that point on, the momentum and the game belonged to Findlay as the Oilers would cruise to a 35-point win over their longtime rival.
The game belonged to the Findlay defense which caused chaos for the Purple and White all day long. The Oilers were led in tackles by their senior linebacker Isaac Miles and sophomore Christopher Jefferson. Both players finished with 11 stops. Miles had a sack on the afternoon while Jefferson had an interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery.
Richard Sheler, the team's leader in tackles entering the game, had eight stops and a forced fumble while Cade Rogers had a career day, making six tackles and recording two interceptions. Two of his tackles were tackles-for-loss.
Despite playing with short fields for most of the game, Findlay did outgain Ashland in the contest, 407-to-398 in total yardage. Behind their talented offensive line, the Oilers pounded the ball on the ground to the tune of 257 yards, the second-most rushing yards allowed by the Eagles' defense this season.
Picking up most of those yards was Slagel who rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns. It was the fourth time this season that the Loveland, Ohio native has eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Slagel was also a threat through the air, catching two passes for 46 yards, both of which were for touchdowns. Brian Benson nearly reached the century mark, as well, finishing with 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. Derek Lynch also found the end zone once and carried the ball three times for 32 yards.
Junior quarterback Matt Winzeler was an efficient 10-of-16 through the air for 150 yards. Thanks to often times starting drives in Ashland territory, four of his ten completed passes went for touchdowns.
Findlay now has one more important regular season contest ahead of them. Next Saturday, Nov. 16, the Tiffin Dragons will come to town in what will likely be a matchup that determines the 2019 Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) Champion. That contest will kick off at noon.