In defeating the Greyhounds of the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 23, the West Texas A&M football team advanced into second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Waiting for the Buffaloes is the Ohio Dominican University Panthers, located in Columbus, Ohio. The game will start at noon on Nov. 30. It is yet to be determined if the game will be broadcasted by KAMR or KCIT.
The Panthers received a first round bye, after completing their undefeated regular season of 10-0, with a 9-0 record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Recently, the Buffaloes have developed a balanced offensive attack, relying the consistent play of senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan – the new all-time LSC passing record holder. With recent games against Midwestern State and Indianapolis, the Buffs have focused on a new wrinkle of their offense: time management and a potent running game led by senior running back Aaron Harris and sophomore running back Geremy Alridge. Aiding the Buff cause in their second consecutive trip to the state of Ohio will be the receiver corps of senior Torrence Allen, senior Jace Jackson, and junior Anthony Johnson.
Two 1,000-yard rushers in Mark Nichols and Brandon Schoen, on the other hand, anchor Ohio Dominican. Both running backs average 5.8 and 6.1 yards per rush, while scoring 11 and 7 touchdowns respectively. Keeping the Panthers balanced is the stellar play of quarterback Mark Miller, who has more than 2,300 yards passing and averages more than 230 yards per game. Miller also has passed for 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. Helping Miller attain those numbers is receivers Abe Johnson, Dez Stewart, Ronald McCloud and Casey Williams along with tight end Nate Weeks. The Panthers have also allowed only four sacks in the 2013 season.
To counter the high powered offense of Ohio Dominican; senior defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks, who brought in five sacks and 17 tackles for loss while senior linebacker Taylor McCuller made 132 total tackles, two sacks, and an interception in the 2013 campaign, spearheads the Buffalo defense. Also contributing to the improved Buffs defense is senior defensive back Curtis Slater, who brought in 101 tackles, 10 tackles for lost yardage, four sacks, and four interceptions. Since the Eastern New Mexico loss, WT seems to have rectified its woes on rushing defensive while locking down on opponent’s receiving corps.
For Ohio Dominican, All-American candidate Justin Bell leads the Panthers. The senior defensive back has made 87 tackles and forced two fumbles. Bell has displayed that he is also a threat in the punt return game. Also of note is defensive back Cody Culbertson, who has contributed with four sacks and one pick while defensive lineman Di’Andre Harrison has brought in seven sacks for the Panthers.
Compared to the long history of the Buffaloes, Ohio Dominican is a relatively new program. Starting their program in 2004, the Panthers hold an overall program record of 68-42. However, the Panther’s ascent into their first ever playoff berth started in 2011 with a 6-4 record before breaking out in 2012 with an 8-3 record. Headed by Ohio State alum Bill Conley, who is in his fourth season with the Panthers, holds a 26-15 overall record while 25-15 in the GLIAC.
While the Buffs have had signature wins against Chadron State (8-3), Midwestern State (7-3) and Texas A&M-Commerce (7-4, invited to the Live United Bowl), the Panthers hold signature wins over Grand Valley State (10-2, facing Colorado State-Pueblo in the second round of the Division II playoffs) and Tiffin University (8-3).
While Ohio Dominican will enter its first postseason game ever at Panther Field, West Texas A&M is no stranger to the playoffs. Since 2005, the Buffs have appeared in the Division II playoffs six times as WT has made it as far as the semifinals in 2012 with wins over Chadron State, Ashland University and Colorado-State Pueblo before dropping to Winston-Salem State.
This will be the first meeting between the two programs.