Wittenberg defense has strong Springboro connection

Tigers play at Hiram this week after picking up first victory of season at Kenyon

The Springboro connection is strong with the Wittenberg football team.

There are five Springboro graduates on the roster, and three of them start. Mike Knock is a fifth-year senior at defensive tackle. Max Yost is a sophomore cornerback. Cameron Snurr is a junior linebacker. Junior cornerback Josh Collins has also seen action in the first two games, and freshman linebacker Jacob White is another former Panther on the roster.

Snurr and Knock are two of the team’s four captains. Snurr and Yost lead the team in tackles with 17 each through two games, and Knock ranks third with 10. Knock leads the team with two sacks.

“It’s good to see,” Wittenberg coach Jim Collins said Wednesday. “I know coach (Ryan Wilhite), and he does a great job down there. To see Mike and Cameron get those votes for captain, it’s really a testament to those guys from Springboro. They have a solid program. The other thing is those guys are good players as well. They’ve gotten the respect of their peers. They work hard. They’re the leaders on the defense.”

Snurr is a second-year starter who led the team with 73 tackles last season. That followed a freshman season in which he and no one else on the roster got to play at all because of the pandemic.

The Tigers finished 7-3 last season. They’re 1-1 this season after losing 48-28 at SUNY Cortland in Week 1 and then beating Kenyon 51-28 in Gambier on Saturday for Collins’ first victory as head coach.

“After Cortland, I think we were a little down,” Snurr said, “but we went through the bye week just thinking about getting to Kenyon and dominating them. We had a decent week of practice last week, and after getting that big win, we’ve kind of got some momentum right now.”

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Wittenberg plays at Hiram (0-3) at noon Saturday. Hiram has been outscored 119-37 and lost 49-21 to Wooster and 44-0 to DePauw at home in its first two North Coast Athletic Conference games.

Wittenberg has never lost to Hiram. It is 20-0 against the Terriers in NCAC play, and the closest of those games was a 27-10 score in 2015. The Tigers won 51-21 last season.

Wittenberg had 603 yards of total offense against Kenyon. It was its first 600-yard game since Nov. 23, 2013, when it beat Lebanon Valley 59-17 in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

“It was a big win, obviously, just to get started and start building some traction,” Collins said. “Offensively, we got off to a quick start. It helped that right out of the gate we got a three-and-out and got the ball quick and went right down the field and scored. That set the tone for the game. Our guys were ready to play. It had been a long two weeks.”

Quarterback Collin Brown ranks second in the NCAC with 292 passing yards per game. Running back Garrett Gross leads the conference in all-purpose yards, averaging 142 per game.

Collins liked the fact that his team ran the ball 51 times against Kenyon and all three running backs — Gross, Bryce Anderson and Reed Hall — got in the end zone. Brown also played a part in the ground game, gaining 57 yards on 13 carries and scoring a touchdown.

Collins praised the efficiency of the pass game. Brown completed 16 of 20 passes for 325 yards with two touchdowns.

That didn’t mean it was a perfect performance. Wittenberg settled for field goals three times — Brandon Goodwin made two, and Nathan Hawks made one — and gave up too many big plays on defense. Those are areas to watch as Wittenberg moves closer to one of its most important games of the year. It plays Wabash at 1 p.m. Oct. 1 in its home opener. It will also be homecoming.

“Our goal every single week is we’re preparing for a playoff game,” Collins said. “That’s the level we want to play at, and that’s the only way you get better. I always equate it to the weight room. You don’t get stronger in the weight room if you just keep benching 225 every week. You’ve got to increase the pounds. So every single week we’ve got to keep taking that intensity up a notch, whether it’s 1% or 2%, or whatever it is, and prepare in that manner. This is no different. Really at the end of the day, in every one of these games, you want to see that progress. You want to see a team that’s getting better, and that’s what we’re focused on every day in practice.”

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