The Whitmer Panthers had a Holley, jolly time of it in a rain-drenched Homecoming game at Memorial Stadium Friday night, and the visiting Findlay Trojans were left in the wake of a 56-25 loss in Three Rivers Athletic Conference football.
Whitmer (7-0, 4-0 TRAC), Ohio’s sixth-ranked Division I team, topped Findlay 619-341 in total offense in winning its 25th straight regular-season game.
“I’m real happy with the execution we had, offensively and defensively,” Whitmer head coach Jerry Bell said. “Our No. 1s on defense played at a very high level. Findlay scored some points when we put some other guys in, but give them credit. That’s a great football team.
“We were just fortunate to be clicking on all cylinders tonight. Our kids embraced the [rainy weather] elements, and they played Whitmer football tonight.”
Homecoming queen Sarah McRitchie may have been the center of attention during halftime festivities, but the rest of the night belonged to senior quarterback Nick Holley.
Holley rushed 16 times for 324 yards and scored four touchdowns on runs of 22, 80, 35, and six yards. What would have been a fifth Holley TD on a 16-yard run went to lineman Lord Lowe, who recovered a fumble in the end zone after Holley was hit at the goal line
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Holley was 5-of-10 passing for 121 yards and a TD, and stole a TD away from Findlay by outleaping the Trojans’ 6-7 wideout Joseph Davidson in the end zone for an interception.
“I have no clue,” Holley said when asked how he accomplished his feat. “We came out and knew we had to play hard. Coach [Jerry] Bell had a good game plan for us and we started running it.
“The option to throw was limited, so we got it done on the ground. It was a great feeling. Our O-line did a great job, and everything just worked out.”
Holley’s pick was one of the four Panther interceptions of Trojans senior quarterback Paul Cosiano, who also lost two fumbles for all six of Findlay turnovers.
If one Holley wasn’t enough, Nick’s twin brother Nate, a defensive back and receiver, also did his fair share. He contributed two receptions for 62 yards, had an interception, and delivered a 67-yard punt in addition to his typical solid play at linebacker.
“We just give it our all,” Nate Holley said. “We play with heart. We’re not the biggest guys out there, but it’s a passion and we come here to do our job every week. It’s a privilege to be out here.
After failing to gain a first down on its first possession of the game, Whitmer cashed in for TDs on its next four drives.
The Panthers capitalized off a Findlay turnover — a Cosiano fumble — for their first TD. Whitmer linebacker Jack Linch recovered the loose ball at his 43.
Holley, who accounted for 278 of Whitmer’s 330 first-half total yards, hit running back Me’Gail Frisch (seven carries, 44 yards) on a 31-yard pass play, and a play later scampered 22 yards for a TD.
“We didn’t tackle very well, and there were some things on offense we didn’t execute well,” Findlay coach Mark Ritzler said. "The rest we’ll have to look at the film and see.
“[Nick Holley] is a great football player. He’s a winner, and he finds a way to win and make plays.”
Findlay got a 30-yard field goal from Grant McKinniss with 11 seconds left in the period, and that was enough time for Holley to add another TD.
He took a keeper through the middle, cut left, and continued on for his 80-yard TD dash and a 14-3 Panther lead.
Whitmer needed just four plays to cover the 57 yards to the end zone on its next chance. This time Tre Sterritt (18 carries, 107 yards) scored on a 43-yard TD run 2:38 into the second quarter.
Down 21-3, the Trojans answered with a 73-yard scoring drive. The big play was Cosiano’s 41-yard pass down the right sideline to Jimmy Orwick for a first-and-goal at the Whitmer 7. One play later Cosiano (11-of-28 passing, 114 yards) scored on a two-yard keeper 6:27 before halftime.
Whitmer responded with another 80-yard scoring drive.