Hillsdale’s season opener hardly lacked excitement. Unfor­tu­nately, the Chargers came out on the losing side as the Findlay Oilers won a thrilling contest 46 – 38 in front of their home fans on Sat­urday.

“Our guys don’t have any­thing to hang their heads about,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “We were faced with a pretty big chal­lenge. That quar­terback is pretty good.” The Oiler’s quar­terback, former Ohio State recruit Verlon Reed, accounted for all six of Findlay’s touch­downs, with four on the ground and two through the air. Hillsdale’s quar­terback was not too shabby either.

“Mark [LaPrairie] did a pretty good job,” coach Otterbein said in praise of his quar­terback. “He showed com­posure. We took care of the football.” Red­shirt sophomore LaPrairie threw for 214 yards and a touchdown without throwing a pick in addition to scoring a rushing touchdown in his first game as a starter. He had a chance to lead the Chargers to overtime with a last-minute drive, but couldn’t find the end zone before time ran out.

“It was exciting,” LaPrairie said about playing in such a close contest in his first start. “Hon­estly I liked [the pressure]. It was really cool. I wanted to be in that position. Ulti­mately, next time I wish we would have had a timeout or a little more time and we could have fin­ished the drive.” LaPrairie was not the only Charger to shine in the season opener. Red­shirt sophomore tailback Bennett Lewis carried the ball 24 times for 143 yards and three touch­downs.

“He’s one of those guys that you really enjoy blocking for,” starting center Justice Karmie said. “He makes you look good.” Lewis suf­fered a season-ending injury in last year’s opener, so it was great for the team to see him out on the field pro­ducing.

“He did a tremendous job,” coach Otterbein said about Lewis’s play. “I feel really good at this stage about where we are at with our tailback position.” Backup tailback Wade Wood also con­tributed four carries for 35 yards for the Chargers. On the defensive side, Tim Moinet picked off a pass and Butch Herzog recorded 10 solo tackles for Hillsdale. This Sat­urday, Hillsdale will look to pick up their first win of the season at Lake Erie. According to Otterbein, the Chargers know what they need to improve on to get the win.

“We’d like to be a little more effi­cient on third down,” coach Otterbein said. Hillsdale fin­ished just 3‑for‑9 on third downs against Findlay. One key failure to convert on third down occurred on the opening drive of the second half in which the Chargers had a chance to take the lead, but couldn’t convert on third-and‑2.

“We were 3‑for‑9 on third downs which isn’t great,” LaPrairie said. “We can do a better job of con­trolling the ball and not giving it back to them.” Hillsdale will also look to win the big play battle.

“Hope­fully we’ll be able to gen­erate some big plays,” coach Otterbein said. “We had eight big plays on Sat­urday which is about where we want to be. [But] we gave up too many.” Lake Erie is coming off a humil­i­ating 66 – 21 loss to Ashland. Hillsdale realizes such a result makes a team dan­gerous.

“They’re a little bit embar­rassed and want to make a name for them­selves,” Karmie said. “We’ve just got to play the way we play, stick to the fun­da­mentals.” The Chargers hope that, in doing so, they’ll return to Hillsdale for their home opener with an even record.