By BRIAN LESTER
CANTON — With his hometown as the backdrop and the turf of Fawcett Stadium the stage for his final college football game, University of Findlay senior running back Monterae Williams made the most of his opportunity.
Williams played high school football at Canton McKinley and began building his legacy inside the stadium. As he did against countless prep opponents, the stalwart made life miserable for Walsh University on Saturday as well.
He gashed the Cavaliers’ defense for 187 yards on 37 carries and scored four touchdowns, paving the way for a 26-7 victory in the season finale for both teams on a mild, sun-splashed Saturday afternoon in Northeast Ohio.
Coming back home meant a great deal to Williams, who finishes his career as the all-time leading rusher in UF history (4,641 yards), first in career carries (980) and second in career TDs (50) en route to becoming the only player in program history to lead the team in rushing four consecutive seasons.
Williams was overwhelmed with emotion after the game.
“It’s really indescribable how I feel,” Williams said. “I can’t explain it right now but I wouldn’t want it to end any other way. It was a perfect ending to a great season and a great career.”
Williams is one of eight UF seniors and all eight played a role in pushing the program in the right direction. Two years ago, the Oilers were 1-10, losing their final eight games.
A year ago, it was 6-5. Now a 7-3 finish and a tie for second in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is even better.
“If we had finished 6-4, it wouldn’t have been a pleasant nine months for me,” second-year head coach Rob Keys said.
Keys gave a passionate post-game speech inside a jubilant UF lockerroom and handed out a game ball to each of his seniors while thanking them for their time and effort.
“They committed to the transition and raised the expectation level,” Keys said. “The common denominator in all eight of them is that they are tough, physically and mentally. Those are the kind of guys we need to continue to bring into our program.”
UF (7-3, 7-3 GLIAC) knew it was going to need to match the intensity and effort of Walsh (3-8, 2-8), which has been competitive throughout its first season in the GLIAC despite its losing record.
The Oilers shook off a shaky start — senior quarterback Clay Belton (9 of 22 passing, 149 yards) threw an interception on the first drive — and then Williams ran straight ahead for a 6-yard TD and a 7-0 lead with 8:38 to go in the opening quarter.
Belton’s 34-yard run and a 13-yard catch by Jaryd Brown (5 catches, 88 yards) helped fuel the drive.
Williams scored his second TD on a 1-yard run with 41 seconds to go in the opening quarter, again running straight ahead, and his 3-yard scoring run with 1:57 to go in the second gave the Oilers a 20-7 lead at halftime.
Williams had 135 yards by halftime and finished with a 6-yard scoring run that stretched the Oilers’ advantage to 26-7 with 10:11 to play in the game.
Tyler Johns, along with Scott Dearwester, are the only seniors on the offensive line and they managed to step up again, leading the way for an offense that netted 395 yards by matching the physicality of the Cavaliers’ defense and not allowing a sack.
Alex Kovach, the other senior on offense, caught one pass for 18 yards.
“It was an emotional game for the seniors and we came out and did what we were supposed to do,” Johns said. “That is all you can ask for.”
The defense of the Oilers, which, at times, has struggled with consistency, rose to the occasion, limiting the Cavaliers to 232 yards by swarming to the ball and hitting hard.
Toba Olarewaju churned out 135 yards and a TD while Jack Dawson completed only 7 of 23 passes for 103 yards for Walsh. He was sacked three times, including once by senior defensive lineman Richard Sumlin (three tackles), who ripped Dawson down for a 10-yard loss on WU’s final possession of the game.
“We were playing a team that likes to line it up and run. It was a test of wills,” Sumlin said. “We felt like we had to come out and push early and get penetration in the backfield. I thought we did a good job of getting pressure and stopping the run.”
Harold Jones-Quartey anchored the defense with 12 tackles and senior linebacker Brandon Butler, the leading tackler in the conference, racked up nine tackles.
Former Vanlue standout Josh Kloepfer, a senior defensive lineman, tallied seven tackles. Feraris Golden (three tackles) picked off two passes.
“The pressure from the defensive line allowed us to do what we needed to do (in the secondary),” Golden said. “I was just trying to be as aggressive as possible.”
Now comes the offseason, and for the Oilers, this is where the foundation will need to be laid if they want to contend for a GLIAC championship and their first NCAA Division II playoff berth in 2013.
“The expectation level will be no different. We haven’t hit it yet, but we are trying to get there,” Keys said. “The guys have to embrace the challenge and move the program forward.”
On this day, though, it was a chance for the Oilers to savor another win.
“It feels fantastic,” Williams said. “We started a good run and now it’s up to the players who are coming back next year to keep it rolling. We have passed the torch on to them.”
Findlay 14 6 0 6 — 26
Walsh 0 7 0 0 — 7
UF — M. Williams 6 run (Rode kick)
UF — M. Williams 1 run (Rode kick)
WU — Olarewaju 7 run (Carter kick)
UF — M. Williams 3 run (Rode kick)
UF — M. Williams 6 run (pass failed)
First Downs 23 15
Rushes-yards 52-258 38-129
Passing Yards 149 103
Comp-Att-Int 9-22-1 7-23-2
Punts-Avg. 5-40.8 9-37.8
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 4-38 4-26
rushing — Findlay, M. Williams 37-187, Belton 6-49, Ford 8-21, Slone 1-1. Walsh, Olarewaju 26-133, Garner 6-37, Dawson 5-(minus-18), Gary 1-(minus-23).
passing — Findlay, Belton 9-22-1-149. Walsh, Dawson 7-23-2-103.
receiving — Findlay, Brown 5-88, Morris 1-21, Kovach 1-18, M. Williams 1-12, Henry 1-10. Walsh, Gary 4-58, Schrock 3-45.
Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at email@example.com.