MARQUETTE, Mich. – Junior Grant Russell (Newark, Ohio) completed his first 20 passes and Ohio Dominican's football team totaled 539 yards of offense as the Panthers defeated Northern Michigan 38-28 in GLIAC play Saturday afternoon.
Russell finished 31-of-35 passing for 384 yards and four touchdowns, setting career highs in completion percentage, yardage and touchdowns. He also ran for 44 yards. He completed 88.5 percent of his passes, the second-best percentage of any Division II player this season (entering the weekend.)
Sophomore Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) set career highs with 11 catches for 171 yards and a score. Freshman EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) had personal bests in rushing attempts (24) and yards (93) while also setting career highs in receptions (five) and yards (76). He had a rushing and receiving score as well.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and moved 75 yards in 12 plays, covering 5:32 of clock. Russell found Contini for 16 yards on a fourth-and-one play to the NMU 11, and two plays later rolled out and connected with Stephens on a nine yard score.
NMU took advantage of a roughing the punter penalty on its first drive and moved to the ODU 32 yard line, but senior Marquise Tyus (Lakewood, Ohio) forced a fumble that sophomore Ross Thompson (Delphos, Ohio) fell on at the Panther 20 to halt the threat.
The Panthers needed just four plays to build on their lead, as Russell and Contini hooked up a 64 yard scoring play, the longest passing touchdown of the season for ODU, giving the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
The Wildcats scored in the waning seconds of the first quarter to draw within 14-7, but the defense stiffened in the second quarter, limiting NMU to just 30 total yards and one first down. An 11 play scoring drive, this one capped by a 17 yard touchdown pass to Stephens, extended the lead to 21-7 with 6:36 left in the quarter.
ODU's defense forced a punt, putting the offense back on the field with 3:33 left, and the Panthers put three points on the board as Justin Bonchek (Mayfield, Ohio) hit a 34 yard field goal to give ODU a 24-7 cushion entering halftime.
Northern Michigan scored a touchdown in the third quarter to make it 24-14 with 4:10 to play, but ODU had an answer. The Panthers went 75 yards in 11 plays, with Colson powering in from the goal line, to extend the lead back to 17 early in the fourth.
The Wildcats crept back within 10 on a touchdown with 12:06 to play, but again the Panthers had a response. Facing third-and-five from the NMU 34, the Panthers faced pressure from the Wildcats front, and Russell dumped a swing pass in the flat to Colson who took it down the far sideline for a score with 8:51 to play.
NMU again responded with a score with 4:55 left, but the Panthers ran out the clock. Russell and Contini connected on a 12 yard pass on a third-and-six play, and Colson had a six yard run on a third-and-five play to clinch the win.
The 539 yards by ODU was a season-high, as was the 384 passing yards. The Panthers converted 8-of-13 on third downs and the defense held Northern Michigan to 94 rushing yards.
Ohio Dominican travels to Walsh for a noon kickoff next Saturday at North Canton Hoover's Memorial Stadium.
Contact: Scott Miles