#23 Football Fends Off Cal 28-23 In Season Opener

#23 Football Fends Off Cal 28-23 In Season Opener

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Holding on to a 28-23 lead, Ohio Dominican's defense came up with a stop on 4th-and-10 from its own 15-yard line in the final minute to thwart a Cal (Pa.) rally and score a season-opening victory at Panther Stadium.

The Vulcans had moved 57 yards in 10 plays to reach the Panther 15 with just over a minute left, but four straight incompletions – including a break up by senior Ross Thompson (Delphos, Ohio) on third down and well-defended end zone coverage by senior Tawain Gordon (Columbus, Ohio) on fourth down – halted the comeback.

ODU (No. 23 AFCA) had taken a 28-17 lead earlier in the quarter as junior Shane Bucenell (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) found sophomore Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) in stride down the far sideline for a 50-yard touchdown with 10:58 to play.

Cal answered right back, needing less than two minutes to score to make it 28-23, but senior Tristan Kehres (Shelby, Ohio) intercepted the two-point conversion attempt.

The Panthers were then forced to punt on their ensuing possession, but Thompson came up with a big play as he intercepted a deflected pass at the ODU 41 yard line to stop a Cal drive with 6:43 left.

ODU then went three-and-out, setting up Cal's final drive.

Thompson led the defense with 15 tackles (1.5 TFL) and broke up two passes with the pick. Gordon finished with 10 stops, Kehres made nine stops and sophomore Jayden Davis (Springfield, Ohio) finished with eight tackles.

Junior Alessio Amato (Zanesville, Ohio) picked off two passes as well to help lead the defense, who held on despite Cal running 88 plays to ODU's 55 and being on the field for nearly 39 minutes.

Bucenell completed 20-of-26 passes for 299 yards and three scores in his first start for the Panthers. Senior Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) finished with six catches for 125 yards and a touchdown and Conliffe added 116 yards and two TDs.

Cal opened the game with a 13 play touchdown drive that took up six and a half minutes, but the Panthers struck back quickly. Bucenell hooked up with Contini for 24 yards to the Cal 30, then found him again on the next play for a 30-yard score to even the contest at 7-7 with 7:11 in the frame.

Cal hit a 28-yard field goal later in the quarter, then scored on its first drive of the second quarter to build a 17-7 lead with 10:12 to play.

ODU struck back quickly, needing just four plays to find paydirt, as Bucenell found Conliffe for a 50-yard score to draw the Panthers within 17-14, which would be the halftime score.

The Panthers then took their first lead as they marched 67 yards in 10 plays to start the second half, with Bucenell finding Contini on gains of 15 and 29 yards, and junior EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) capping it off with a two-yard score. That put the Panthers in front 21-17 with 11:22 in the quarter, and that score held until Conliffe's second long TD in the fourth quarter.

Ohio Dominican remains at home to host Ashland at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 in Panther Stadium.

Contact: Scott Miles