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Football: 2017 was a learning experience



The only way to move forward is to forget the past.

The University of Findlay football team did experience a pretty memorable 2017, however.

The Oilers not only made the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time but picked up a win along the way.

UF head coach Rob Keys feels the Oilers have done a good job not talking about it anymore.

Unless it’s a learning experience.

“All we try to do is learn from our past,” Keys said. “We can’t change it. It’s probably not going to affect the future in any way, shape or form. We really have tried to move forward from 2017 and get to 2018.”

Findlay’s run ended in a second round 45-26 loss to Assumption.

The mixed feelings began.

“Last season was fun and everything, making the playoffs but we won a couple of football games (10-3 record),” senior fullback Jacob Boucher said. “We didn’t really win anything.

“Our goal this year is to win every game, take it game by game, week by week, all that kind of stuff.”

Findlay lost the de facto Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship game in Week 11 to Ohio Dominican and still made the playoffs as the last team in the Super Region No. 1.

In the postseason opener, UF upset No. 2 Shepherd 29-17 on the road in convincing fashion by rushing for 277 yards and possessing the ball for 41:11.

It wasn’t enough for returning players, though they all understood the magnitude of their unprecedented run.

“It was definitely a good season and we don’t want to sell any of those seniors short from last year,” senior defensive back Chewy Chukwuneke said. “What we were able to accomplish is something that hasn’t been able to be done in program history before.”

In a sense, it added more fuel to their competitive fire.

“We’re looking at it like we didn’t win the conference championship and we didn’t win it all so at the end of the day we don’t have anything to show for last season,” Chukwuneke said.

“It just makes us more hungry and we’re not just content with just winning,” junior wide receiver Drew Ogletree said. “We need to actually win the championships.”

That’s not to say their playoff victory didn’t carry a ripple effect.

Before, the Oilers, as the No. 7 seed, carried an underdog label.

The team was coming off consecutive 6-5 seasons but had something to prove in joining a new conference.

“Even when we showed up to Shepherd, honestly those guys were laughing at us because those guys, University of Findlay, who are they?” senior defensive tackle Cyle Skidmore said. “And we end up beating them.”

Findlay might be a marked team on opponents’ schedules is always a salivating thought.

They Oilers are not quite on top of the mountain, but closer than they’ve ever been in Division II.

“At practice you can definitely tell we always have high tempo now,” Skidmore said. “When you’re on top of that mountain you’ve got to keep working and have perfect practice each and every day, have that high tempo.”

After all, ODU was still picked to win the GMAC, UF second.

And that’s fine by the Oilers.

“Coming back in the conference, ODU, they’re holding the trophy,” Chukwuneke said. “At the end of the day so they’re still the team to beat in our conference. But like we said, we know if we execute and do the things we do, we know we can play with anybody.”

UF also be ranked in a few preseason polls.

Findlay came in No. 22 in the rankings and No. 25 in the AFCA Coaches Poll.

“I don’t see it as a target on our back but if there is so beat it because we feel like we can beat anybody,” Chukwuneke said