Freshman running backs step up for Wittenberg Tigers

Kendall, Washington get chance because of injury to Sarley

Freshmen have a hard time earning playing time with the Wittenberg Tigers. There are 65 freshmen on the roster halfway into the season. There are 135 players in all on the team.

Several freshmen have risen to the top this fall to become contributors for the No. 14 Tigers (5-0, 4-0), who travel to Denison (5-0, 4-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday with first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference on the line.

“I think there’s a couple different ways it can happen,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “One is if a guy comes in a position where you’ve either had a bunch of graduation or maybe you’re not very talented at his position. The other way is guys come in and they learn. Sometimes they have to bide their time a little bit.

“Sooner or later, guys are going to get into a JV game or a scrimmage or something like that, and they make a play that kind of stands out. Coach is a little more apt to put him in maybe the next day and see how he does. This is the time of year where the middle of the season we’ll have different kids come through at different times.”

PREVIEW: Wittenberg at Denison

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Two freshman running backs have made the most of their opportunities in recent weeks as starter DeShawn Sarley has battled an ankle injury. Sarley is likely to get more carries this week than he has the last two.

Nick Kendall, of Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., has rushed 55 times for 287 yards. Jaheem Washington, of Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples, Fla., has gained 173 yards on 32 carries.

“They’re a little bit different,” Fincham said. “They both have very good vision, which is obviously welcome. (Kendall) is a little more of a slasher. I think (Washington’s) built a little lower to the ground and has more strength in his legs and hips.”

Fincham praised both running backs for their play Saturday in a 21-10 victory over DePauw. On Wittenberg’s last drive, as it sought to run out the clock, Kendall had a 15-yard carry, and Washington had a 30-yard run.

Wittenberg saw another freshman step up last week. Versailles graduate Corey Dieringer took over at cornerback because Rashon Edwards was injured and had 15 tackles and two pass breakups.

On Denison: The Big Red take a perfect ecord into the Wittenberg game for the second straight season. The Tigers built a 38-0 lead against Denison a year ago and won 45-14 in Springfield.

However, Denison often plays Wittenberg tougher in Granville. Two years ago, the Tigers won 30-23 in their last game at Denison.

After a streak of four straight losing seasons, Denison has posted winning record three years in a row. This is the seventh season for head coach Jack Hatem.

“Obviously, the university has invested in their athletics with their new facilities, and I think Jack has put together a really good staff,” Fincham said. “They’ve recruited really hard, and it shows because they’re talent level has really increased in the last four or five years. They have kind of changed the culture over there. They play aggressive in-your-face defense. They try overpopulate the run box on you. Their corners are athletic. Offensively, they run the ball really well.”

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