PDT Sports Writer
Fact: Ohio State has the longest regular season winning streak among Division I FBS teams at 18 games and has been showcased on national television five times this year.
Fact: A few miles away from the Horseshoe, Ohio Dominican has the same distinction in Division II with 11-straight victories and will be showcased on national television for the first time Thursday night.
The Panthers (6-0, 5-0), ranked 18th in the latest American Football Coaches Association Division II Poll, will look to extend the streak to a dozen as they host Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Findlay (4-2, 2-2) in a contest that will be aired on CBS Sports Network as a part of the network’s Division II Thursday Night Football program. With the Oilers coming into Columbus, fans from a variety of southeastern Ohio high schools will be able to cheer from afar a number of players on both squads they once cheered for in person under the Friday night lights.
“This is what guys dream of playing in as a football player,” Ohio Dominican coach Bill Conley said of the game in a video posted on the school’s athletic website. “As a football coach, you dream of these kind of evenings.”
The host Panthers list five players — Ironton’s Aaron Stephens, Logan’s Paul Wesselhoeft and the Jackson trio of Austin Osborne, Tyson McNelly and Ethan Quinn — from schools with Southeast District while Findlay has Oak Hill’s Jesse Slone, Symmes Valley’s Grant Foster, River Valley’s Patrick Williams, and Greenfield McClain’s Zach Matricia.
For ODU, Wesselhoeft has 21 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in five games as a freshman and has been named defensive lineman of the game twice by his coaches. Osbourne has 10 tackles, mainly on special teams, in five contests, in his sophomore season. Stephens is a third string tight end and is also seeing the bulk of his reps on special teams.
In his sophomore campaign as an Oiler, Slone is the placeholder. Matricia has five tackles and a pass breakup in six games as a junior linebacker.
Conley is in his fourth season in charge of a Panther program that made the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 2010. He was a part of the OSU football coaching staffs during the Earle Bruce, John Cooper and Jim Tressel eras (1984-87, 92-2003) and has been widely regarded as one of the top college recruiters in the country.
Rob Keys has turned Findlay around in his third season as the head coach with a current record of 17-10. During his weekly coach’s show, the former West Virginia Mountaineer co-captain believes his squad can come away with the upset.
“In the bigger games, they know that we’re not going to go into Ohio Dominican on Thursday night and beat them 60-0,” Keys said. “Our guys understand that and they go and I think they do a better job of staying within the moment, fight play-by-play, series-by-series.”
This will be ODU’s third evening kickoff of the season. In the video, Conley feels this will be a great experience not only for the team, but for the school itself and hopes more opportunities down the road to be showcased nationally will become available. With that being said, he wants to make sure his team doesn’t let the moment get to big for his program.
“You can’t prepare differently, you have to take one team at a time, one game at a time and actually, one play at a time,” Conley said. “That’s the way you’ve got to prepare.”
The Oilers won their only night contest of the season, a 51-33 triumph over Urbana in the opener. Being able to play in front of a nationally-televised audience speaks volumes about Findlay’s growth as a program according to Keys.
“It is a testament to our kids, our staff and our assistant coaches because of the way that they’ve worked,” Keys said. “I’ve said it and I’ve meant that, there’s no way were on anybody’s short list or any long list to be in the national TV talk, like really, Findlay? You’re going to put a 1-10 team that scored 15 touchdowns in 2010 in a season on national TV, that has struggled through Division II pretty much every year with the exception of maybe some bright spots here and there?”
CBS Sports Network is on channel 322 in standard definition and 1322 in high definition for Time Warner Cable subscribers, 221 on DirecTV and 158 on Dish Network. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. from Panther Field.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.