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Football: It’s rivalry week

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
Anything can happen in a rivalry game.
Except the same thing has transpired the last 18 times the University of Findlay and Tiffin University met on the gridiron — Findlay won.
The Oilers hope to continue their dominance over the No. 24-ranked Dragons at 1 p.m. Saturday in the season and Great Midwest Athletic Conference finale for both at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
“We don’t look in the past,” senior H-back Jacob Boucher said. “We don’t look like ‘Oh, we’ve beat them this many times in a row.’ We look at it as it’s 2018. It’s a new year. It’s a new team.
“They’re 9-1 so we’re not taking them lightly at all.”
Findlay (7-3, 5-2 GMAC) nearly got the chance to ruin Tiffin’s perfect season.
Instead, the Dragons (9-1, 6-1) lost for the first time last week at Hillsdale (48-26).
For the fifth time this season, the Oilers will face a team coming off a loss to the Chargers (9-1, 8-0) — the GMAC champs.
Findlay could play spoiler as Tiffin sits eighth in the Super Region One playoff rankings. The top seven teams make the playoffs.
“It means a lot to this program,” UF coach Rob Keys said. “It’s more than just that win. It affects a lot of stuff when it comes to recruiting, how you finish the season.
“When you finish with the win, the offseason is just much better. We’ve put (four) games together now in a row. To finish on a pretty good winning streak after we had some adversity would mean a lot to the team that’s coming back in 2019 as well as the seniors that are finishing their last game.”
Boucher is one of those seniors.
The feeling of being a senior started to sink in more as he was honored on the field with his classmates and in front of his parents in last Saturday’s home finale.
“I’ve been here a long time and I’ve learned a lot,” Boucher said. “You don’t really realize you’re a senior until it’s over.”
Boucher started out as a wide receiver for UF in 2014. After being unable to crack the two-deep, he put on 60 pounds to move over to fullback.
Last season was his first seeing significant playing time.
He made an immediate impact, first as a blocker and then as a passing option in the second half that included a playoff appearance. Boucher caught 10 passes for 99 yards in their two-game run.
His 2018 totals are very similar — 12 catches for 96 yards — but his value is even deeper.
“No stat line is going to show how important he’s been to the offense, as well as the entire team because of his leadership skills,” Keys said of Boucher.
Boucher is part of a UF senior class that has put together four straight winning seasons for the first time since joining Division II in 1999.
The Oilers are 29-16 in the last four seasons.
“It’s definitely an honor to be a part of it,” Boucher said. “It definitely sets up the foundation for future guys. It’s going to help us bring in guys with the same image as us.”
SERIES HISTORY: Findlay hasn’t lost to Tiffin since 1993 and is 25-1 all-time.
The Dragons didn’t hold bragging rights for long as the Oilers earned payback three games later with a 28-14 victory against them in the NAIA playoffs.
Findlay defeated Tiffin in each of the next four years before moving to Division II.
They didn’t meet again until 2003.
The rivalry was renewed when Tiffin joined the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2008.
They’ve met every year since, including a nonconference tussle in last year’s season opener (28-7) in Tiffin’s final year in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
’SONS OF THUNDER: Findlay’s Brian Benson and Tiffin’s Kyle Brunson rank one-two in the GMAC in rushing.
Benson, the GMAC’s Offensive Player of the Week, is fresh off a 221-yard and four-touchdown performance in a half of work against Malone.
He’s totaled 615 of his 963 yards and 10 of his 16 rushing touchdowns in the last three weeks.
Brunson (98.9 ypg) has five 100-yard games and 10 TDs this season.
He hails from Farmington Hills, Michigan, the same town as UF senior running back Chauncey Bridges (52.5 ypg, 4 TD).
“We recruited him,” Keys said of Brunson. “He’s a top-notch tailback. He’s a complete guy.”
UF’s Richard Wilson (10 TD) also averages 52.5 ypg.
PASSING: Tiffin sophomore quarterback Nick Watson made his first collegiate start against the Oilers in Week 1 last season.
He threw for 194 yards on 22 of 37 attempts with an interception.
Twenty starts later, he’s leads the GMAC at 277.9 passing yards per game.
He’s completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns to six interceptions.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Keys said. “It’s the best receiving corps we’ve played probably this year, the only one I’ve compared it to is Ohio Dominican.”
Carey grad and redshirt freshman Gavin Woods led Tiffin last week with 87 yards on nine catches.
Charles Holland is Tiffin’s season leader in all categories of yards (866), catches (67) and receiving touchdowns (nine).
Findlay’s Adam Bertke (157.8 ypg) has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in his last two games without throwing an interception.
Wolf, 419-427-8496
andywolf@thecourier.com