By RYAN HINES
The last two weeks, Celina has had to face the top two offenses
in the Western Buckeye League in Shawnee and Kenton and on both
occasions, the Bulldogs lost.
Celina (2-2, 1-2 WBL) appears to have a break in the schedule
this week as Elida comes to Celina Stadium on Friday night.
Elida, statistically, has the second worst offense in the WBL
averaging just 9.0 points per game (just ahead of Van Wert at
8.0 ppg.) while also having the worst defense in the league
allowing an average of 33.3 ppg.
The poor offense and even worse defense has resulted in a 1-3
mark for Elida this season and 0-3 record in league play.
Elida, which was just 5-55 over the past six years, began the
season in rare fashion as the Allen County Bulldogs started
the season with a 21-14 win over Lima Central Catholic. The
win over the Thunderbirds ended a 22-game losing streak for
Elida dating back to Oct. 13, 2000.
“It certainly was a big win for us because the kids were
really feeling the pressure from the losing streak,” said
Elida head coach Chris Etzler. “It was really good to
get that off of their backs and it was even better for the younger
kids to get a taste of winning.”
After week one, it has been a struggle as Elida has been outscored
119-15 by Kenton, Ottawa-Glandorf and Lima Bath the last three
“Our kids have a good attitude and each week they want
to succeed so bad,” said Etzler. “We’re a
young team, but I think that we’re getting better.”
The one bright spot throughout the season thus far for Elida
has been the play of quarterback Justin Dunlap. Dunlap (6-1,
175, senior) is fourth in the WBL in total offense averaging
163.2 yards per game. Dunlap is 47-for-90 on the year for 480
yards with one touchdown and six interceptions while also adding
173 rushing yards and four scores.
“The strength for Justin is his versatility because he
can throw the ball well and also run the ball effectively as
well,” explained Etzler. “He’s the fastest
kid on our team and we try to use all of his abilities.”
Andrew Bailey (6-3, 170, senior) is the top target for Dunlap
in the Elida multi-receiver offensive scheme with 19 receptions
(third in WBL) for 222 receiving yards (fifth in WBL). Dan Rodgers
(5-10, 180, sophomore) and Mark Leugers have combined for 21
catches for 192 yards and one score.
“Dunlap is an excellent athlete and we have to try and
control their combination of Dunlap to Bailey because it’s
a dangerous combination,” said Fell.
Defensively, free safety Tyson Mathias (6-0, 165, junior) and
Tyler Smith (6-1, 185, junior) are the duo that Celina must
keep an eye on as both Mathias and Smith rank in the top five
in the WBL in tackling with a total of 90 tackles between the
For Celina, injuries continue to mount as the latest involves
quarterback Joe Kanney who will miss Friday’s game and
the rest of the season due to a broken left hand. The replacement
will be Mr. Versatility Brian Gagle who will play his third
offensive position in as many weeks (wide receiver, running
“With that type of injury where it’s at, he can’t
take a snap and he’ll be in a cast for five to six weeks,”
stated Fell. “He broke it in the fourth quarter against
Kenton trying to brace his fall on a tackle. He’s a three-year
starter who has worked his butt off and it’s tough to
see that happen to a kid like that. It’s a blow to him
and a blow to the team.”
Gagle played a lot of running back last week due to leading
rusher Kyle Schott being lost for the season with a broken ankle.
Brady Bonifas, who has gained 210 yards on the ground this year,
will now handle a majority of the rushing chores for Celina
while Gagle will be a constant threat to run the option at quarterback.
“Brian is an excellent quarterback when it comes to running
the option,” pointed out Fell. “He’s a great
athlete that can makes plays when the ball is in his hands.
He’ll get better and better as he gets more time at quarterback.”
Also out with an injury this week will be Ryan Byers who replaced
Gagle at wide receiver last week. Byers will miss Friday’s
game due to a concussion and will be replaced by sophomore Jordan
The big key for the home team will be whether Celina can muster
enough plays in the passing game with Tim Homan, Jon Beougher
and Hueker to keep Elida from stacking the line of scrimmage
against the run.
“We have to get something out of our passing game to keep
the defense honest and that will be a key for us this week since
Brian has only had a few days working at quarterback,”