Wittenberg Tigers coach Joe Fincham tried to get his oldest daughter Samantha to stand in for him during a postgame interview Saturday. She might have done a fine job, considering she’s watched him give dozens of interviews on the turf at Edwards-Maurer Field over the years.
But when it comes to talking about the play of the offensive line, that’s a job for the head coach.
The No. 12 Tigers rushed for a season-high 273 yards in a 49-15 victory over Allegheny. Jaheem Washington, who gained 133 yards off the bench, and starter DeShawn Sarley, who had 81 of his 124 yards on one play, got the glory and three touchdowns between them, but the line deserved a large share of the credit.
“The offensive line did a great job of blocking today,” Sarley said. “They opened up the holes really well.”
Fincham was wary, however, of giving the group too much praise.
“You’ve got to be careful about giving the fat guys too much sugar, right?” Fincham said.
Luke Jahnke, Chris Reisiger, Trey Ellis and Brenden Jurden started on the line against the Gators, with Logan Kirby at tight end and Tyler Everidge at fullback. Scott Turner and Tommy Gerhard started on the line in the previous game against Hiram but missed this game with injuries. Fincham said he has started three different groups of linemen in the first six games.
“We’ve shown some resiliency in the fact that we’ve continued to get better,” Fincham said. “No matter who’s playing what position, they’ve played pretty well together. They have gotten better as the season’s gone on, but there’s still a lot of football left.”
With four games left in the regular season, Wittenberg (6-0, 5-0) shares first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference with DePauw (6-0, 5-0). DePauw won 26-17 at Denison on Saturday and hosts Wittenberg in Greencastle, Ind., next Saturday. Wabash (5-1, 4-1) fell out of first place with a 16-13 loss at home to Ohio Wesleyan (3-3, 3-2).
After playing DePauw, Wittenberg goes to Wabash. It plays Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster at home in the final two games. The Gators (2-4, 1-4) were better than the four previous seasons, when they won a total of two games, but were still no match for the Tigers.
“We were not looking past anybody,” Fincham said. “If anybody in our organization has respect for Allegheny, it’s me. The things that were important to us were obvious: win, stay healthy and play well, in that order. We’ve just had so many injuries this year. Hopefully, we’re going to start getting some guys back.”
Wide receivers Jeff Tiffner and Thaddeus Snodgrass missed the game with injuries. Other players stepped up. Liam Duncan caught two passes, both for touchdowns. Bryce Bailey caught seven passes for 61 yards. Sam Kayser had four catches for 39 yards.
“Kayser’s really got good ball skills,” Fincham said. “He’s going to be a fun one (to watch). Liam Duncan has done nothing but grow in confidence as this season’s gone along. He may be our most improved player. It’s been nice that those guys have stepped up.”