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Wittenberg faces Allegheny Saturday, seeks 6-0 start

A look at the helmet Wittenberg is wearing early in the 2017 season. David Jablonski/Staff
A look at the helmet Wittenberg is wearing early in the 2017 season. David Jablonski/Staff

Tigers share first place with Wabash and DePauw

The beat rolls on for the Wittenberg Tigers, who have outscored their first four North Coast Athletic Conference opponents 169-40.

The fifth opponent is Allegheny. The Gators (2-3, 1-3), who visit Edwards-Maurer Field at 1 p.m. Saturday, have their best team in years. They have already matched their combined win total of the last four seasons.

Allegheny, a one-time NCAC powerhouse, was Wittenberg’s biggest rival in the early years of the Joe Fincham era and a Division III national champion in 1990, was 2-38 from 2013-16.

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This Allegheny team will be a big underdog in Springfield, but it will test Wittenberg’s defense. The Gators rank fifth in the conference with 35.8 points per game.

“They can really put up some points,” Fincham said. “They’ve got some skill guys who can really go. Their quarterback can zing it around. They always put a lot of pressure on you schematically with their defense.”

A week after beating Denison 28-12 in Springfield, Wittenberg (5-0, 4-0) climbed to No. 12 in the poll with a 59-17 victory at Hiram. The Tigers allowed a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game but didn't give up another touchdown until the fourth quarter.

“We were probably a little flat, but that’s the case anytime you play in an emotional game like we had the week before,” Fincham said. “The good thing was nobody panicked, the coaches included, and we settled down and kept playing.”

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Quarterback Jake Kennedy threw a season-high four touchdown passes. He has 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. His completion percentage has improved almost every week. He completed 64 percent of his passes (16 of 25) against Hiram.

“He’s so much different right now from where he was last year,” Fincham said. “It’s night and day. Whether it’s been (offensive coordinator Reed Florence) coaching him or (former offensive coordinator Kevin Hoyng), he’s got a lot more of the playbook at his disposal now than he had last year. There’s things I’m sure he would tell you he’d like to be doing better, but there’s 10 other guys in the huddle who have something to do with it. He’s getting to where we need him to be.”

The schedule gets tougher for the Tigers in the weeks ahead. With five games to go in NCAC play, they’re tied with DePauw and Wabash. Each team is 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the NCAC. Wittenberg plays at DePauw and at Wabash the next two weeks.