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Football Chance Stewart
Sophomore Chance Stewart is entering his first full season as a Charger (Photo: Anders Kiledal / Hillsdale Col­legian).

Some­times the toughest opponent a football team faces throughout a season is injuries. It’s impos­sible to predict what will happen on the gridiron, but the Hillsdale College football team’s 2016 schedule is one of the most favorable it’s had in Keith Otterbein’s 15 seasons as head coach.

The Chargers will play 10 games in 2016. Six of their 10 games will be played at home, and the Chargers will enjoy a bye week at the mid­point of the season. Hillsdale’s coaching staff con­sidered filling the open date, but ulti­mately decided the week would be better spent resting and recu­per­ating for the stretch run of the season.

“The fact that we kept that open speaks to the intensity that you have for a full 11 weeks in the Great Lakes Con­ference,” Otterbein said. “Week in and week out it’s a grind.”

Hillsdale’s bye week comes the second week of October. By that time, the Chargers will be five games into the season — dealing with fatigue and potential injuries.

“We can back off a little bit in terms of the physical contact that our guys have. You can’t do that if you’re getting ready for another game,” Otterbein said. “So we can crank that back a little bit, give them a little time to heal up, but at the same time we’ve got to stay sharp. So I think we have a pretty good plan estab­lished as to how we’re going to approach that off week.”

Hillsdale’s players haven’t expe­ri­enced a bye week in their col­le­giate careers, but they’re looking forward to getting a bit of a break during the season.

“The bye week is actually phe­nomenal,” sophomore quar­terback Chance Stewart said. “It’s perfect because it’s right in the middle of the season, so it’ll be great to let the body recover for a week and get ready for that last stretch.”

The Chargers will also benefit from playing a majority of their games at home. Five of their nine con­ference games will be played at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium, in addition to Sat­urday night’s season opening matchup with non-con­ference opponent Uni­versity of Indi­anapolis.

“Just being at home is a big advantage,” Otterbein said. “We want to defend our house. It’s a more com­fortable envi­ronment.”

The Chargers fin­ished last season 3 – 3 at home and know they need to do better this season.

“We seem to have played well over history here,” Otterbein said. “Our home com­munity is with us, our stu­dents are with us, so the fact that we are home six of those 10 games is a big advantage and we’re hope­fully going to play to that level.”

Grand Valley, Ferris State, and Michigan Tech are the top-three ranked teams in the GLIAC North Division Pre­season Poll, and the Chargers will face all three teams at home this year.

“A lot of our tougher oppo­nents are at home which is good,” junior line­backer Jay Rose said. “Playing at home is a lot dif­ferent and a lot better, espe­cially night games too. It’s a good atmos­phere and I’m excited for that.”