TIFFIN, Ohio—The 20th edition of the Rhine River Classic—the annual Ohio Athletic Conference rivalry game between Heidelberg University and Otterbein University—is set for Saturday, Sept. 24 at Memorial Stadium in Westerville, Ohio. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.
The Rhine River Classic commemorates the first collegiate football game played on German soil, a 7-7 tie between the Student Princes and Cardinals on September 19, 1992 in Frankfort, Germany.
Both teams enter Saturday’s contest 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the OAC. Last week, the Student Princes lost to Baldwin-Wallace College, 35-20, in Berea, while Otterbein was edged by No. 12 Ohio Northern University, 34-33, in overtime in Ada.
Heidelberg’s offensive attack features a strong balance between run and pass. The Student Princes—led by sophomore second-team All-OAC running back Germany Woods’ (Cleveland/Lakewood St. Edward) 128.5 rushing yards per game—average 171.0 rushing yards per game. Freshman quarterback Michael Mees (North Ridgeville) has completed 50.8 percent of his passes (32-of-63) for 442 yards and five touchdowns to lead a passing attack that tallies 225.5 yards per game.
Mees has completed passes to 11 different receivers over the first two games. Senior wide receiver Josh Lynch (Dayton/Meadowdale) and junior wide receiver Mario Escalante (Highland Heights, Ky./Newport Central Catholic) lead the pack. Lynch has caught a team-high seven passes for 98 yards, while Escalante has four catches for a team-best 133 yards.
Defensively, the Tri-Color allows 31.5 points and 468.5 yards of total offense per game, including 177.5 yards on the ground and 291.0 yards through the air. Nine student-athletes have already made 10 or more tackles, led by junior linebacker Craig Sykes (Centerburg), who has notched a team-high 24 stops, including 2.0 tackles for loss and one-half sack, one pass break up, and has forced and recovered one fumble.
The Cardinals score 30.5 points per game and total 372.5 yards of offense. On the ground, Otterbein rushes for 111.0 yards and passes for 261.5 yards per game. The Cardinal defense allows as many points as its offense scores—30.5 per game—and gives up 321.0 yards of total offense per game. Opponents average 174.0 rushing yards and 147.0 passing yards each time out.
Prior to the first Rhine River Classic in 1992, the student-athletes from both universities attended a German civics lesson at Germany’s Heidelberg University, took an historical cruise on the Rhine River, went on an educational visit to the Black Forest, and met with several dignitaries and political leaders of Germany and Frankfort.
To celebrate the upcoming 20th Rhine River Classic, both universities are inviting alumni who played in that first game to be honorary captains. T-shirts will be produced for all alumni in attendance, who will meet on the field for the coin toss prior to opening kickoff. After the game, student-athletes from both teams, in addition to the 1992 alumni student-athletes, will join for a “Taste of Germany” picnic, featuring knockwurst, brats and sauerkraut, German potato salad and cream puffs.
In addition to the Rhine River festivities, seven student-athletes who hail from the greater Columbus area will enjoy Saturday’s football game in their own backyard. The list includes freshman wide receiver Nate Anderson (Pickerington/Central), sophomore linebacker Keith Carius (Columbus/London), freshman defensive back Colt Carnahan (Dublin/Worthington Kilbourne), senior linebacker John Irwin (Westerville/Columbus DeSales), junior defensive lineman Matt Jones (Columbus/Beechcroft) and Sykes.
Following the Rhine River Classic, Heidelberg will return to Tiffin for its annual Homecoming contest Saturday, Oct. 1 against Capital University at Mayer Field.