By ANDREW WILLIAMS
for the review times
FINDLAY — Teams Ohio and Michigan took drastically different approaches on the offensive side of the ball during the inaugural Ohio-Michigan Border Classic All-Star game saturday at Donnell Stadium.
And by the end of the contest, it was easy to see which was the more successful strategy.
After falling behind 7-0 after one quarter, Michigan reeled off 24 consecutive points thanks to a mammoth offensive line and a relentless rushing attack and came away with a 27-14 win.
Ohio struck first when a pair of University of Toledo commits, Kenton’s Grant Sherman and Massillon Washington’s Marcus Whitfield, hooked up on a 40-yard scoring strike with 1:57 to play in the first quarter to give Ohio the early 7-0 advantage.
The touchdown pass was made possible by a busted coverage in the Michigan secondary that left Whitfield wide open down the visitor’s sideline for an easy score. It would prove to be one of the few mistakes the Michigan defense would make all day.
“Everyone hasn’t played football in awhile in a game, so it took us a little while to get into a rhythm,” Michigan quarterback and Rutgers commit Giovanni Rescigno said. “But once we did, I don’t think they were better than us. We were the better team.”
Once the ground game got going for Michigan, there was little Ohio could do to stop it.
Rescigno got the scoring started for his squad when he punched it into the end zone from 7 yards out with 6:58 to play before halftime to even the score. North Carolina State commit Kyle Bambard added a 36-yard field goal at the end of the half to give Michigan a 10-7 lead at halftime.
Michigan wasn’t done, though, as Devon Spaulding raced 60 yards through the heart of the Ohio defense on the opening possession of the third quarter for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead. Ian Erikson, who will play at Eastern Michigan, added a 10-yard touchdown run less than 4 minutes later to run the margin to 24-7.
Michigan finished with 228 yards rushing on 46 carries as seven different players registered at least one carry. Spaulding, a Central Michigan commit and Michigan’s offensive MVP, rushed seven times for 90 yards. Rescigno tallied 51 yards on 12 carries and was 8 of 13 passing for 68 yards and one interception.
The ground game was effective thanks to a seven-man offensive line rotation that averaged more than 6-foot-5 and 296 pounds — a factor that helped bury Team Ohio in the second half.
“I think we tired them out,” Rescigno said. “The plays that we ran worked. The guys on the offensive line executed well and that’s what worked for us. We prepared all week for it and the plays that we were supposed to run worked.
“The offensive line did a great job. The running backs ran their butts off. They just did a great job. I’m proud of them.”
Much of Ohio’s game plan rested on the arm of Sherman, who finished his prep career with more than 11,000 yards passing and 120 touchdowns in two years as Kenton’s starter.
Sherman had a much tougher time Saturday, though, as he looked across the line of scrimmage at future Division I college athletes who hardly compare to the Western Buckeye League defenses he is used to seeing.
“The best athletes I’ve ever played against,” Sherman said. “They’re big, they hit hard. They were amazing. They’re definitely D-I athletes over there.”
After starting the game 0-for-3 passing, Sherman completed his next 7 of 9 to end the first half. Michigan got consistent pressure with only four pass rushers and made the two-time All-Ohioan uncomfortable in the pocket.
Falling behind by multiple scores in the third quarter forced Ohio to continue putting the ball in the air, but they never found much success getting the ball down the field or in the quick screen game.
“I tried to move around in the pocket a little better,” Sherman said of the second half. “The first half was kind of stagnant and they got more sacks on me. It got better as the game went on.
“They have a lot of great athletes over there. We came out kind of flat, but got in a rhythm as the game went on. Tough loss, though.”
Sherman finished 15 of 30 for 191 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Although Ohio’s game plan was to put the ball in the air, it made a conscious effort to develop a rushing attack as well. Michigan simply wouldn’t allow it, though.
Ohio ended the game with a net zero yards rushing on 22 carries. Cleveland Glenville’s Davon Anderson, who will run track at Ohio State, carried five times for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Anderson’s 28-yard score with 1:07 left in the third period made it 24-14 in Michigan’s favor.
Bambard added a 29-yard field goal with 7:43 to play to complete the scoring.
Ohio’s chances at a comeback were dashed when it turned the ball over on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter with less than 5 minutes to play.
University of Michigan commit Jared Wangler, son of former Wolverine quarterback and honorary Team Michigan captain John Wangler, earned his team’s defensive MVP honor.
Ohio State commit Marshon Lattimore of Glenville, who recorded seven catches for 81 yards, picked up the offensive MVP award for Ohio. while Cincinnati Walnut Hills’ Nilijah Ballew, who has committed to Bowling Green State University, was the defensive MVP.
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