Oilers Stun Tiffin in Finale | Close Season on Six Game Streak
Tiffin, Ohio – 6-0 with six to go.
Since a shaky start to the year had the University of Findlay football team essentially out of contention to repeat as the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) champs, many had counted the team out. Inside the locker room, the Oilers, battered with injuries all season long, rallied together with a common goal: end the year with six straight wins.
On Saturday, Nov. 12, in mid-30 degree and snowy weather, it was mission accomplished. Findlay went on the road just 25 miles east on State Route 224 to take on a long-time opponent that has recently become the Oilers top rival, the Tiffin Dragons.
Despite allowing 25 unanswered points by the home team, Findlay came away victorious by a final of 27-25 to finish the reason with a 7-4 mark overall and a 6-2 record in G-MAC play with all six wins coming consecutively, the longest in-conference winning streak in the Great Midwest this season. For Tiffin, the loss ends the Dragons regular-season at 6-4 with a 6-2 record in the conference, but more than that, it takes away what would have been a share of the G-MAC Championship crown.
"I want it to be known how proud we are of this group and their willingness to fight and stick to it and be committed to something", said head coach Kory Allen following the game. "Was it pretty? No. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Are we proud of those guys for being here and being committed and staying the course? 100%".
For the Oilers, it was about as good of a first half as the team could have hoped for, and that was courtesy of a stout defense that stymied the top offense in the conference, which came into the game scoring nearly 40 points per game.
After a pair of three-and-outs began the game, Findlay drove 52 yards in six plays, capping the drive with a 20-yard, diving touchdown by senior quarterback Alec Bornhorst, giving Findlay the lead.
The teams traded possessions over the next handful of drives before the Oilers, who took over on their own 32-yard line after a drive-halting fumble was forced by senior Jeremiah Jackson and recovered by freshman Romaro Warren Jr., needed just three plays to pick up their next score. On 1st-and-10 from the Tiffin 45 yard line, senior Jeremy Hunt found junior Tanner Schroeder to his left in the flat. Schroeder than launched the ball down field to senior Derek Lynch who scrambled the remaining 15 yards to give the Oilers a 14-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Tiffin had the ball and was looking to finally get on the scoreboard. With the ball on the Oilers' 11 yard line, junior Dalton Rockhold forced a fumble which was recovered by Jeremiah Jackson and returned 87 yards to the endzone, giving Findlay a 21-0 lead with 25 seconds to play in the half.
The second half began much the same as, on the first play from scrimmage, Dragons quarterback Christian Carter had to retreat to field a high snap and in the process of looking for room to run, lost a fumble that was forced and recovered by Findlay's Dalton Rockhold. The Oilers would turn that into a 28-yard field goal by sophomore Austin Snyder, who would later make some history, to take a 24-0 lead.
Then things started to turn in favor of the home team.
Within four-and-a-half minutes on the game clock, the Dragons, which took advantage of a muffed kick return, had scored two touchdowns and converted a pair of two-point conversions, closing the score to 24-16.
Teams traded field position and, on the second play of the four quarter, pinned deep in their own territory, Findlay quarterback Alec Bornhorst was sacked in the endzone while trying to throw the ball away. He was called for intentional grounding in the end zone which was a safety and saw the Dragons trail by just six points at 24-18.
Findlay, which had to punt, could not stop the Tiffin offense which drove 54 yards for a touchdown to take the first lead of the game at 25-24, giving the home squad 25 unanswered points.
The Oilers then went on the longest drive of the day by either team, a methodical 15-play, 58-yard drive that milked 7:38 off the clock. That drive ended with a 19-yard field goal after the Oilers failed to score a touchdown with three plays inside the ten yard line. The field goal by Snyder was his 15th of the season which establishes a new program record for field goals in a season, breaking the old mark of 14 which was set in 2014 by Tyler Bugeja and in 2009 by Cameron Stevens. It was also the 31st field goal of Snyder's career, placing him in third on the all-time list, just three field goals behind Bugeja for second and 13 behind Stevens for first.
Now leading 27-25, it was up to the Oilers defense which had created so many problems for the Dragons early, but had started to bend in the second half.
With 5:17 to play in the game, there was plenty of time for Tiffin to score, but the Oilers defense remained stout. Findlay did allow a first down, but a big-time sack by Rockhold, who was all over the field in Saturday's contest, forced the Dragons into a 4th and 16. An incomplete pass gave Findlay the ball with 2:06 to play and the Dragons, with no timeouts, could not stop the clock.
Tiffin did get the ball back with 19 seconds to play but, despite multiple deep shots down field and a pass interference call, Findlay withstood the assault and stormed the field, picking up the two-point victory over a bitter rival.
In total, Tiffin outgained Findlay 343-to-250 including an impressive 217 yards on the ground. But it was the Oilers defense that forced the Dragons into four fumbles, the biggest difference in the game.
Offensively, there were not many gaudy numbers for the Oilers who battling the elements, had just 73 yards rushing and 177 yards passing. Jeremy Hunt completed 11 passes for 83 yards while Bornhorst completed six passes for 49 yards. Tannner Schroeder had the longest completion, the 45-yard touchdown to Derek Lynch.
On defense, junior Grey Brancifort was the leading tackler, making 11 stops in the game that included 1.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack.
Senior Marqis Stokes made ten tackles including a tackle-for-loss while senior Kijana Caldwell and freshman Romaro Warren Jr. each had eight tackles. Jeremiah Jackson had five tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown while Jack Morrison had five tackles including a sack.
On the defensive line, Dalton Rockhold dominated, making four stops including a sack, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
Following the game, Coach Allen made sure to give credit to his senior class. "I'd be remised if I didn't mention our seniors. Guys returning are going into the off season now, but right now we need to say a huge thank you to these guys that have played their last game. We've got senior leadership…and they left it all out on the field. They chose, THEY chose to go 6-and-0 with six to go instead of mailing it in."
This is the 11th time in 12 seasons that the Oilers have had a winning record and is the fourth consecutive season, discounting the shortened 2021 spring season, that Findlay has tallied at least seven wins. The 2022 season is the first time a Findlay team has had seven wins under a first-year head coach since Byron Morgan led the Oilers to a 7-3 record in his first season in 1963.