Posted: Aug 27, 2018
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The 15th season of Ohio Dominican football kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30 as the Panthers welcome California (Pa.) to Columbus to start the 2018 campaign.
Last year, the two teams played a down-to-the-wire contest that saw ODU rally back from a 33-14 deficit in the third quarter to take a 34-33 lead before Cal hit a field goal in the final minute to take the win.
This fall, the Panthers are ranked No. 23 in the AFCA Preseason Poll and will return 15 all-conference players from 2017, including seven first-teamers. Overall, 47 letter winners return, including 16 players who started at least three games (seven on offense, nine on defense).
Defensively, ODU has three seniors starting on the line in Brian Hunter, Nick Isaacs and Tristan Kehres. Hunter and Kehres were each First Team All-Great Midwest honorees, while Isaacs returns after missing 2017 with injury.
Senior linebacker Ross Thompson fought through injuries in 2017 after a 2016 campaign in which he made 94 tackles. Junior linebacker Camren Moore was a First Team All-Great Midwest selection, and Jalen M. Christian also returns as a starter.
Junior safety Gus Dimmerling picked up first team accolades and senior corner Tawain Gordon earned second team honors last year.
On offense, the Panthers return a pair of experienced starters on the line in senior left tackle Robert Vargo and sophomore right guard Jake Garrison. Vargo has made 24 career starts and Garrison started all 10 games last fall.
ODU has a deep rotation at running back and wide receiver this fall. In the backfield, junior EJ Colson picked up First Team All-Great Midwest honors and sophomores Monalo Caldwell and Fred Pitts also return. G-MAC Offensive Back of the Year Cory Contini is back after a 72-catch, 1,186-yard, 14-TD season last year. He's joined by second team honoree David Turner, G-MAC Freshman of the Year Devanaire Conliffe, and Cedric Washington. Senior tight end Wyatt McLeod was named to the second team as well last fall.
The Panthers will have a new signal caller this fall, with junior Shane Bucenell and freshman Evan Ernst competing in camp for the starting role.
ODU returns all of its specialists, including G-MAC Special Teams Player of the Year Logen Neidhardt. Kickers Cooper Johnson and Jed Quackenbush return, as does long snapper Tristan Rock.
• Since 2006, ODU has an overall record of 93-38 (.710 win percentage.) The Panthers are 47-13 in their last 60 games (.783 win percentage.) ODU has also won 45 of its last 57 regular season games (.789).
• Over the past 60 games, ODU has outscored opponents by 991 points, an average of 16.5 points per game. The Panthers have scored 30 or more points 40 times in that stretch and held opponents to 14 points or fewer 24 times.
• ODU is 42-8 against opponents from Ohio since 2007 (.840 win percentage.)
• The Panthers are 27-6 in their last 33 regular season road games (.818).
• ODU is 48-3 (.941) in its last 51 games against unranked opponents, dating back to Oct. 15, 2011.
• ODU is 9-5 all-time in season openers and 5-2 when opening the season at home. This is the first time ODU's opened at home since 2014 (59-14 win vs. Malone).
Contact: Scott Miles