The Matchup: Denison and Ohio Northern will open the 2019 season on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. at Piper Stadium in Granville, Ohio. This is the 21st meeting between Ohio Northern and Denison in football but the first time the two schools have played since Denison left the Ohio Athletic Conference in 1983 to become a charter member of the North Coast Athletic Conference. Denison leads the all-time series with a 12-4-4 record against ONU. The first-ever meeting between Denison and Ohio Northern took place in 1913.
How to Watch: The Denison Sports Network will provide a live video stream of the game beginning at 6:45 p.m. Joey Semel '21 (play-by-play) and Jack White '20 (color commentary) will bring you the action from Piper Stadium. Fans can watch on their computers, tablets or mobile devices here. The game can also be viewed on your TV through the Denison Sports Network app available on Roku, AppleTV, Android T, and Fire TV streaming devices. You can watch the game live at Piper Stadium in Granville, Ohio. Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $3 for children and senior citizens and are available at the gate, on game day. The gates will open at 5:30 p.m.
Scouting the Big Red: After a breakthrough campaign in 2018 that saw the Big Red capture its first conference championship since 1986 and advance to the Division III playoffs for the first time since 1985 expectations for 2019 are high. Record-setting quarterback Canaan Gebele has graduated but eight starters return on defense along with NCAC rushing champ Alex Minton.
Scouting the Polar Bears: Ohio Northern is coming off a 5-5 season in 2018. The Polar Bears opened the season with four-straight wins but struggled down the stretch, falling to Marietta, John Carroll, Mount Union, Baldwin Wallace, and Heidelberg over the final six weeks of the season. Returning for ONU is first-team All-OAC linebacker Mark Niles along with second-team quarterback Anthony McFadden and second-team tailback Brock Martin. McFadden passed for 2,218 yards with 20 TDs while completing 60 percent of his passes. Martin rushed for 756 yards and 13 TDs in his freshman season. Niles was second on the team in tackles with 84 while playing in only eight games.
A New Era: The last four seasons of Denison football has been one of the most successful stretches in the 128-year history of the program. Since 2015, the Big Red has won at least seven games in each season while posting a record of 30-11 (.732). The best four-year stretch at Denison took place from 1983-86 when Keith Piper's teams went 33-6 (.846).
That's a lot of offense: We hate to point out the elephant in the room so early but the biggest question mark surrounding the 2019 Denison Big Red is how they will replace Gagliardi Trophy semifinalist Canaan Gebele. Senior Brad Baldinger and sophomore Drew Dawkins are the heir-apparent to the throne. Gebele re-wrote the record books in every passing category while becoming just the third player in conference history to surpass 10,000 yards of total offense. Since taking over the starting job midway through his freshman year, Gebele was responsible for 106 touchdowns. He was also a major threat to run the football. He ranks ninth in career rushing with 2,420 yards.
The Coaches: Denison head coach Jack Hatem returns for his 10th season at Denison. He boasts a career record of 56-35 (.615) and was the 2016 NCAC Coach of the Year. Hatem ranks third in career victories at Denison, trailing only Keith Piper (200 wins) and Walter Livingston (76 wins). Dean Paul enters his 16th season leading the Polar Bears. He has a record of 101-53 (.644) at ONU. This is not the first time Hatem and Paul have gone head-to-head on the gridiron. In 2011, Hatem and Paul were on opposing sidelines as the respective head coaches of the Ohio Army National Guard Senior Bowl game held at Mapfre Stadium. Hatem's South squad won the game, 21-7.
Father-Son Moment: Jack Hatem's son, A.J., is in his fifth season as an assistant football coach at Ohio Northern. A.J. also serves as the Director of the MSA Program at Ohio Northern. A.J. spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Denison in 2011-12.
Wrecking Ball: Alex Minton returns at the Big Red's bell cow in the backfield. He led the NCAC in rushing with 1,368 yards while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. In two seasons at Denison, Minton has posted consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons and 26 rushing TDs.
Fearsome Foursome: Denison's starting front four on defense consists of seniors Nate Keirn, Ben Cross, Jordan Lobel, and Chase Struewing. Keirn led the team with 10.5 sacks in 2018. The group also combined for 41 tackles-for-loss a season ago.
Position shifts: Sophomore Anthony Rooney spent last season as a wide receiver but made the shift to free safety in the offseason and he has flourished, winning the starting job left vacant by graduating senior Ryan Zinkula. Junior Dallas Griffiths is also making a position shift, moving from linebacker to tight end in 2019.
Happy Birthday: College Football is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019 and the Denison Big Red has been a part of 129 of those seasons. Denison's first year of football dates to 1889. Since then, Denison has compiled a record of 569-497-57, good for a .532 winning percentage.
Welcome Blue Aces: The Granville High School Marching Band will provide the halftime entertainment at Saturday night's home opener against Ohio Northern.