Wittenberg radio announcer Jim Scoby once worked on the Dayton men’s basketball staff. He has worked as an assistant basketball coach at Wittenberg and his alma mater, South High School. He has coached a number of other area teams in different sports over the years. He’s always a coach, even if he doesn’t have a team right now.
Scoby showed that Tuesday, giving dozens of Wittenberg football players quick pep talks as they filed out the locker room at the HPER Center on their way to practice.
“Five more,” Scoby said again and again.
If the 12th-ranked Tigers (9-1) do win five more games and claim a Division III national championship, there’s no doubt they’ll remember that moment. Rest assured, for now they’re only thinking about their first playoff game at noon today against Lebanon Valley at Edwards-Maurer Field.
Wittenberg has never played Lebanon Valley, a school located about 90 minutes west of Philadelphia.
“The first thing that stands out is they’re a good football team,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “Unfortunately, when you get here and they’re reading off those things, I’m always hoping we’ll draw Jones Junior High, and they never quite show up on our bracket.
“They’ve got great size on their offensive line. They’re physical as a team. They’re well-coached. They’re a lot better than I was hoping they were going to be when I turned the film on.”
This is the first playoff appearance for the Flying Dutchmen, and they spent a long time on the road Friday on the way to Springfield. Wittenberg has faced that situation itself. The NCAA selection committee shipped it to Abilene, Texas, in 2001 to play Hardin-Simmons.
“Traveling in the first round is hard,” Fincham said. “You don’t get the film until late Sunday night. You lose almost a whole day of prep, especially when they’re making the type of trip they are, and I’ve been there.”
Wittenberg seems poised to make some noise in the playoffs, though it has a hurdle as big as a mountain looming in the second round if it wins today, No. 1 Mount Union. That’s assuming the Purple Raiders (10-0) win today, too, and that’s usually a safe assumption. They host Washington & Jefferson (8-2).
“We just have to come out with the mindset that we know we can stop the run,” junior cornerback Victor Banjo said. “The last couple of weeks, we’ve turned teams into one-dimensional teams. We hope we can stop them up front and make them pass the ball.”