The Hillsdale College football team (7 – 3) ended the season with a 14 – 3 win over Northwood University, securing a four-way tie for the GLIAC North Division title. Saginaw Valley, Michigan Tech, and Grand Valley are the other co-champs.
A standout performance by senior running back Joe Glendening and a very physical defense were instrumental in the Charger victory, which comes after two weeks of losses to Grand Valley and Michigan Tech.
“I think we played a more physical game against Northwood, which was something we wanted to do after Tech pushed us around a little bit,” Glendening said. “The defense stepped up huge all game, which was obviously big for us.”
The Chargers held the Timberwolves to 92 total rushing yards, while Hillsdale rushed for a net total of 218 yards. Glendening rushed for 211 of those yards and scored both Charger touchdowns.
Glendening scored on both the first and final drives of the Chargers’s possession of the ball.
“We decided to run the football on a critical fourth down on the last touchdown drive and it was a well-blocked, well-executed play to get the first down and the next play was a touchdown run,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “It was very fitting for his career that his last carry ended up being a touchdown run.”
The Charger defense stepped up to hold Northwood to a mere three points, after allowing their opponents 42 points in each of the last two games.
“Going into the game, we knew Northwood’s offense wouldn’t be quite as potent as Grand Valley and Tech, but that being said, we focused a lot during the week on really understanding our assignments better and getting everyone to execute their specific role better,” junior linebacker and captain Brett Pasche said.
Coach Otterbein said the team refocused on the fundamentals during practice leading up to the Northwood game.
“As you’re looking for the magic formula all of a sudden because it doesn’t come together and click, what you really have to do is take a step backwards and get back to the fundamentals, making sure we were doing our assignments and lining up correctly,” Coach Otterbein said.
A few big defensive stops, including Pasche’s interception in the second quarter and safety Matt Payne’s in the fourth, helped the Chargers keep the momentum in a battle in which Northwood dominated the passing game.
“The play of the interception was a third down and long and Coach Blanchard had us in a good coverage against the pass,” Pasche said. “Matt and Alex, our two safeties, were deep over the top of everything, so I got to hang under the receiver, knowing I had their help. Luckily, the quarterback didn’t quite get it to the receiver and I was able to pick it off from where I was.”
Senior quarterback Anthony Mifsud passed for 49 yards in the class of 2013’s last college victory.
“As seniors, we just wanted to make sure we could end it with a win. Hopefully it gave the other guys some momentum heading into the offseason,” Glendening said.
Glendening ended a winning season with a winning career individually, as he holds the single-season records for rushing yards, rushing attempts, and rushing touchdowns, as well as career records in rushing yards and total touchdowns. “The numbers are kind of mind-boggling when it comes to all he’s accomplished,” Coach Otterbein said.
However, it’s the team accomplishments that Glendening most appreciates.
“The biggest accomplishment for me is just the fact that we’ve had at least a share of the division championship for the past three years,” Glendening said. “The GLIAC is a tough conference and that accomplishment speaks volumes about all the great players past and present, as well as how good of a coaching staff we have.”
Otterbein noted that Glendening has played most of the season with injuries, which held him back from playing to his full potential.
“For eight games he’s been playing with turf toe and an ankle injury, so finally I asked, ‘What percentage do you think you were playing at?’ and he thought about it, and said, ‘About 70 – 75 percent,” Otterbein said. “… The superlatives for what that means for the football team are remarkable, incredible, tough, gritty. Just wow.”
This offseason, Coach Otterbein said the team will work to be even more prepared for an extremely difficult GLIAC North Division next fall.
“As I’ve told people and as we’ve talked about all season, in 34 years of coaching, this schedule was mentally, physically, and emotionally as taxing as any I can ever remember in my coaching career,” Otterbein said. “Now that we’ve been through it, the second year we kind of know what we’re going to go through.”