FINDLAY — Jared Wangler grew up with an intimate appreciation of where the Michigan football program has been.
His father, John, was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1976-1980, along the way letting fly one of the most famous passes in school history — a 45-yard, last-second touchdown to Anthony Carter against Indiana in 1979 — and leading UM past Washington in the 1981 Rose Bowl.
Now a three-star linebacker prospect, Jared is following his old man to Michigan, where he plans to help rewrite the recent narrative. He is confident a program at a crossroads can return to its golden past.
“I feel like this year, we’re going to come back and shock a lot of people,” Wangler said.
It is the same mind-set he carried into Saturday’s first Ohio-Michigan Border Classic at Donnell Stadium.
A game between recently graduated high school stars from the rival states is not perceived as a fair fight. Ohio had 159 scholarship FBS recruits this year and annually sends about twice as many players to the top level of college football as does its northern neighbors. Michigan had 82 FBS prospects this year.
And yet, for one day, Michigan shocked a lot of people.
After Kenton quarterback Grant Sherman found future University of Toledo teammate Marcus Whitfield for an early 40-yard touchdown, Michigan answered with 24 straight points and held off Ohio 27-14.
As the Michigan team broke its postgame huddle, players shouted, “Ohio, we got you!”
“It’s a good feeling,” said Wangler, who was named Michigan’s defensive MVP after finishing with five tackles and a sack. “I hope I get used to this feeling the next four years.”
For their part, his future rivals are confident they will not. Cleveland Glenville’s Erick Smith and Marshawn Lattimore plan to settle the score at Ohio State. The four-star prospects report to Columbus today and are already eyeing UM’s trip to Columbus on Nov. 29.
“I’m not going to forget this,” Smith said, smiling.
Smith also cautioned about reading much into the outcome, saying, “This isn’t a representation of Ohio football at all.”
Few generalizations on the quality of high school football in Ohio and Michigan could be made from a game played without most of the states’ top players.
By game time, for instance, Ohio’s roster had been whittled to 30 players — including 18 bound for FBS schools and only Smith and Lattimore among the nine in-state prospects who signed with OSU. Michigan’s team had 28 FBS players.
The point of the game, though, was not to make comparisons but to give players a pomp-filled final chance to represent their states. Coaches called the day a success.
“Both teams represented themselves well with only a couple days of practice,” said Lima Senior coach Mike Fell, who led the Ohio team. “It was a good, physical, hard-hitting game. Both teams played hard, both teams tackled well. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get it done.”
The visitors were too much, controlling the line on both sides. Michigan had seven sacks — “They were amazing,” said Sherman, bruised but still standing — and scored all three of its touchdowns on the ground, including on a 60-yard dash up the middle by Devon Spaulding (Central Michigan) in the third quarter.
Sherman, who will walk on at Toledo after throwing for 5,886 yards and 66 TDs during his senior season at Kenton, completed 15 of 31 passes for 215 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Lattimore was named Ohio’s offensive MVP with eight catches for 99 yards. He also lost two fumbles.
Virginia Tech-bound lineman and Patrick Henry graduate Cole Pettit had three tackles.
The game had an intensity befitting the college edition of The Game. If hardly the melee from last year’s OSU-Michigan meeting, Lattimore exchanged shoves with Michigan cornerback Chris Carter after his helmet was ripped off.
“Just being competitive,” Lattimore said. “It’s nothing personal. We’re out there competing.”
The same way he plans to against another team from Michigan in a few months.
“We’re getting a ‘W’ in November,” he said.