Lack of Depth, Top Talent Stymies Ohio in Inaugural Border Classic

By Kyle Rowland on June 14, 2014 at 6:35p

FINDLAY, Ohio – How intense is the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry? Just how rabid are the fans? If you stumbled upon Donnell Stadium in Findlay on this mid-June day, you would have been given a resounding answer varying from very to unbelievably.

Inside Ohio’s borders, the state that shares a 73-mile border to the north receives 365 days of attention each year. So when Michigan topped Ohio 27-14 in the inaugural Ohio-Michigan Border Classic, it came as little surprise that the players from the Buckeye State were not thrilled.

“I’m not going to forget this,” said Glenville cornerback Erick Smith, who enrolls at Ohio State Sunday.

“We’re getting a W in November,” added Glenville and Ohio State teammate Marshon Lattimore, a wide receiver and cornerback.

Ohio State’s won consecutive games against its archrival and 11 of the past 13, but any ammunition is welcomed in Columbus. It wouldn’t be Ohio and Michigan without tension. Maybe honorary captains Earle Bruce and John Wangler ratcheted up in the intensity. Whatever it was, the passion was palpable.

Multiple plays ended with frequent whistles and officials separating players. Lattimore had his helmet ripped off by in one scrum. Smith, who finished with six tackles, delivered a bone-jarring hit that was frowned upon by Team Michigan. But it was all in the name of playing football if you asked the players.

“It was just being competitive,” said Lattimore, Team Ohio’s offensive MVP with eight catches for 99 yards. “It’s nothing personal. We’re out there competing with one another. It’s just a game.”

For large portions, it was a sloppy game. On Wednesday, the head coaches spoke confidently about installing offenses in just two days. However, it took all of one possession to realize the play would be far from pristine. There were dropped passes, fumbles and miscommunication from the offensive lines.

The first completed pass didn’t come until the midway point of the first quarter. By then, there was already an interception. From the outset, the offenses were at a distinct disadvantage.

Neither team gained 300 yards of total offense, there were a combined 69 yards lost on sacks and the teams were just 3 of 24 on third-down conversions. Five turnovers – four from Ohio, including two fumbles by Lattimore – were further proof of the uneven performance.

“I thought both teams represented themselves well with only a couple days of practice,” said Ohio head coach Mike Fell, the head coach at Lima Senior. “Good physical, hard-hitting game. Both teams played hard, both teams tackled well. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get it done.”

Many would call it an expected result. Ohio is one of the top football producing states in the country, while Michigan is routinely subpar. In 2014, Ohio is sending 159 players to FBS schools. Michigan barely has half that number – 82.

The Border Classic began with 40-man rosters, but they were trimmed due to players who pulled out of the game. Ohio only had 30 players on game day – 18 going to FBS programs. Michigan had 39 players, 28 attending FBS schools.

For one day, Michigan high school football conquered Ohio.

“Our one goal was to win,” said future Michigan linebacker Jared Wangler, son of former Michigan quarterback John Wangler. “It’s a great feeling to beat Ohio. They had a great team. There’s a lot of talent that comes out of Ohio, so it was a great feeling to beat them.”

Wangler admitted Ohio’s team was shorthanded and devoid of many of the state’s top players. Michigan had similar absences, though, leading Wangler to believe the rosters evened out.

The feelings were mixed on the Ohio sideline. Even before the game, Smith said there was a feeling they would have to play more soundly and give better effort than Michigan because of a lack of depth and a handful of Ohio’s best players.

“We were missing a lot of players from our team,” he said. “We didn’t have our whole team, so this isn’t a representation of Ohio football at all. We still came into the game knowing we could win. The mentality didn't change.

“We came up short, but we gave all of our effort with the people we had.”

When you grow up in a win or else culture, losing always stings. That’s how Lattimore viewed the result, all-star game or not.

“I’m never happy when we lose,” he said. “I could have played better, the team could have played better. But I’m never happy when we lose.”

Some recruiting services had Lattimore and Smith ranked as the top two players in Ohio for the Class of 2014. Their talent was evident, with Lattimore consistently making players miss with the football in his hands and Michigan staying away from Smith’s side of the field on pass plays.

The Glenville duo will report to Ohio State Sunday, but they never considered skipping the game. And if they had, Ted Ginn Sr. would have made sure it didn’t happen.   

“Sometimes kid don’t really know when they’re putting their name on something,” he said. “They played in the first annual Ohio-Michigan game, which is huge. Some day they can show their kids and grandkids they started this all-star game.

“It’s all about Ohio. This is just the beginning of you starting your brand. You get to represent your state and where you come from. The Big 33 was a big game, and I feel the Ohio-Michigan game is the same thing. Anytime you get a chance to be the example for other people and be a leader in the state of Ohio, you have to do that.”

Wangler would agree, except he’d swap out example for beat.

“This is a great feeling,” he said. “I hope I get used to this feeling the next four years. I feel like we’re going to shock a lot of people [next season].”


Comments Show All Comments

buckguyfan1's picture

Kinda sucks.  Oh well. 

+1 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

The fumbles are troubling. 

+3 HS
Codeezy's picture

He's the next elite db to come from glenville, don't you fret my friend. 

SilverBullet-98's picture

Really wish OHSFCA and OHSSA would have taken this game more seriously.

While tsun has some talent this game should have been a blow-out to a win every year.

I have all the respect in the world for the Ohio HS football players who represented their State, and did it short handed.

Props to them!!

"The Past Builds the Future"

-1 HS
Bags5150's picture

You have no idea how seriously the OHSFCA took this game.  The OHSAA had no part in it.  What exactly would you base the comment on?  Do you know why they were short handed?  Do you know who was contacted and didn't respond?  Do you know how many players were told by their respective schools that they couldn't play?  Do you know how many players had to take the ACT yesterday?  I'm not trying to be a jerk but your comment was ignorant, misinformed and baseless.  Before you come back thinking I don't know what I'm talking about, belive me I do.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

+1 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

We send a 159 players to FBS but can only find 18 to suit up? They send 89 but suit up 38? If we arent going to take it seriously dont even play the damn game.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+7 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

I agree, it's a embarrassment on the state and their coaches and ohsaa, but I'm very proud of the kids and coaches who stuck to their commitment and chose to represent the State they grew, lived and learned football in, even though they was out-manned for 1 reason or another.


"The Past Builds the Future"

+4 HS
Knarcisi's picture


TraSmith4's picture

Back in the day these games made sense because a majority of incoming Freshman pretty much knew they would either be redshirting or playing special teams but now most Freshman believe they can play right away! Knowing that why would they want to risk getting hurt so close to enrolling in college? When you only have 18 kids who are going to FBS schools play versus 141 who did not I think that is a pretty strong message that these games might just need to become a thing of the past. Like it or not things are just different now.

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Maybe. Or play it with Juniors (to-be Srs.). Still embarrassing. We should never lose to them in a HS football all star matchup. 

+5 HS
TraSmith4's picture

That would be a logical alternative to play juniors (seniors to be) as most of them still do not have college offers yet so they would absolutely have incentive to play the game. PA HS football isn't too far below OH HS football but, MI, IN and IL HS football are not even in the same league as OH HS football, so yes this should NEVER happen! 

-1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

I miss the BIG 33 already.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+3 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

If we sent that team to the BIG 33 this year it would have been ugly for Ohio.

Even when we started watering down the BIG33 Roster 6 to 7 years ago, it wasn't no where near as  obvious of a depleted roster as the "OHIO vs MICHIGAN BORDER CLASSIC".

I imagine maybe Hoke pulled a few favors from his friends in Ohio on this deal. It's not in his interests to see this game succeed at all.

And they never even edited the Ohio Roster from the kids who didn't show.

"The Past Builds the Future"

-2 HS
Urban Nation Army's picture

Wangler would agree, except he’d swap out example for beat.

“This is a great feeling,” he said. “I hope I get used to this feeling the next four years. I feel like we’re going to shock a lot of people [next season].”

Don't count on it.


Bet you can't say "Bert Bielma is a bumbling buffoon" five times fast.

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

Why play this in June anyways?  Does the timing have anything to do with a lot of the top players not suiting up?  I mean, these kids are enrolling next week-that's a lot to risk in terms of injury, not to mention it's been what, 4 or 5 months since they kids last played contact football?  No way are they in Football shape.  This needs to be played in February after signing day, in the snow, and rotate it between the Shoe and the Big House.  

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+2 HS
kholmes's picture

I had just typed similar below..but I dont think February is viable also as alot of these kids play basketball. In the end, I think the game is a great theoretical idea but I dont think there is a place for it anymore given the issues you have raised.

Bags5150's picture

It can't be played in an FBS stadium.  Can't play in february because of eligibility issues and basketball.  Before the schools went to semesters June was the ideal time.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

kholmes's picture

Im not sure if there is a place for a game like this anymore. Its a great idea theoretically but the reality is there are always going to a lot of players have players enrolling early, players reporting to camp these days in June, and schools not wanting their players to participate because of injury concerns.

I think its well known that there is more talent in Ohio football than Michigan football so no one is going to really argue that...but the reality is this game is going to always be decided more by who isnt there than who is there. It seems like Ohio had more guys missing and was hurt more by this. But even Michigan was missing alot...look at just the DL alone as Malik McDowell (MSU), Lawrence Marshall (UM), and Jhonny Williams (ND) all werent there for Michigan on the line.

All it takes is one torn ACL and I think there will be serious questioning whether it makes sense to play this anymore at this time of year. 

+4 HS
seafus26's picture

Playing down to opponent? Lets play a state that produces top flight colleges players, not just college players. Lets stick out our chest and offer a challenge. Like that post college season college game Texas vs the World or whatever they call it where the kids formerly of Texas high schools take on everyone. These kids are saying the right things about wanting to beat michigan kids but in the end they know, it'd only be beating michigan kids. 

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

-2 HS
buckeyeguy0615's picture

Was Damon Webb in this?

kholmes's picture

No - he did not participate.

CarolinaBuck's picture

I like football as much as the next guy, but no one cares about a football game in June. By the looks of the photo, there were just a couple hundred people at best in a high school stadium so is the interest really there? If there are some people who want the game to be played, then play the game. But don't expect the top players to come out in droves for a totally meaningless exhibition game.

+1 HS
sharks's picture

This would probably be better as a skills competition

A man got to have a code...

+1 HS
PoKeY21's picture

Man Glennville just constantly produces talent on top of talent!!

"It was a woman who drove me to drink, come to think of it I never did hang around to thank her for that"

Seattle Linga's picture

So excited to watch Erick play at the next level.

thirtytrap's picture


+3 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Can't win them all, good to see this event going and indeed will be more interesting than 33 was... I am sure next year will be a different story. 

Congrats to the lads who made the team and pls do use this to motivate... make sure this is the only win those guys from TSUN get over the time you are playing for tOSU....

+1 HS
jheinz's picture

The "can't win them all thing" kind of bothers me because I have seen an Ohio school play out of state competition in recent years (pennsylvania, indiana, etc) and the games I have seen, the Ohio school DEMOLISHED both an established multi state final team from indiana and a city league champion from the pittsburgh area.  So even if we were short on fbs players why would we lose to them?  A lot of really good/top high school players dont get the chance to play division 1 because coaches think they wont translate well to D1 (size, offensive scheme, position fit) so I'm really bummed we didn't blow them out of the water.

I understand one school isn't indicative of the whole state but still I'm surprised because I've noticed culture and organization plays a heavy hand in how good certain communities are.  I just think the overall "community" of Ohio football quality is BETTER than the state of Michigan.


-1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

FYI....Its a High School All-star Game...

+2 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Amen.  Michigan can have this game every year, as far as I am concerned.  Half the Ohio roster will not be playing at Ohio State anyways.  The game that means more to all of us, I am sure, is THE GAME.  I want this game over any high school all-star game, PERIOD.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

buckeyedude's picture

The thing I take away from this game? Erick Smith has the right stuff.



AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

I wanna see the Big hit from Smith.


+1 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

Yes, it's just a ALL-STAR GAME, missing the biggest Stars and representing on a smaller scale the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan.

How would Ohio St. fans feel if all the Senior Starters but 1 or 2 and a few Star Juniors opted out of "The Game" to avoid injury for the NFL Combine?? And Joe-NFL comes out and says it's just a College Football game, FYI.

Yes, there are non-alumni Ohio State fans who see Ohio State as the State's best football players.

To non-alumni, the Ohio State - Michigan game is just a bigger version of a HS All-Star game between the two States football players.

Teams/Schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, Navy, Army, Penn St all have fans who identify with them programs because they grew up in the State. Call that State home, played HS Football in that State and developed a pride about it's brand of football.

So to some, I guess it's more than just a All-Star game,fyi.

"The Past Builds the Future"

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

The only thing that really matters to Buckeye fans is there were no major injuries. 

Bigger picture...Its a chance for more coaching and reward for a great season, off course everyone wants to win even more so against TSUN, but getting upset because of it to me is just putting to much weight on a game like this...

+1 HS
Bourbon Meyer's picture

This is going to ruin Father's Day. I'm going to put on my hockey mask and fire up the chainsaw 

at dinnertime. Just like Clark Griswold would do.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

For the guys who played their hardest in this game I salute you.  It sucks to lose, but it looked as if the Ohio side had quite a few players missing.  For the guys going to OSU just keep this in the back of your mind and let it drive you during offseason workouts. 

Go Bucks!!

+3 HS
BroJim's picture

Great write-up. We will get them and sparty when it counts the most.

I season my simple food with hunger

ToledoBuck5's picture

Why was the game played in Findlay? I would think there would be a little more interest if the game was closer to the border? Maybe play it at Toledo Whitmer, that stadium is literally a minute or less from the border.

I do agree these games sound like a good idea to play in hindsight it's probably a bad idea. Wait til that first kid tears an acl. This game will be over before you can even blink.