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Junior tight end John Brennan scores the first of his two touch­downs last Sat­urday against Ken­tucky Wes­leyan. (Photo: Ryan Kelly Murphy / Courtesy)

Never in the first 124 seasons of Hillsdale College football had the team exceeded 611 yards of offense in a single game. In year 125, they’ve done it in con­sec­utive weeks.

The Chargers’ offense piled up 659 total yards in a 56 – 0 thumping of con­ference adversary Ken­tucky Wes­leyan College on home­coming last Sat­urday.

The offensive output broke a school record set just seven days earlier, when Hillsdale totaled 650 yards against the Uni­versity of Indi­anapolis.

The defensive effort amounted to the Chargers’ first shutout since 2015.

The victory improves Hillsdale’s record to 3 – 2 this season and 1 – 0 in the G-MAC.

Head coach Keith Otterbein took a chance right from the start, dialing up an onside kick to begin the game. Red­shirt freshman Joe Philipp exe­cuted the kick, and junior tight end John Brennan fell on the ball near mid­field, giving Hillsdale’s offense prime field position to begin its onslaught.

“That’s always a tough decision, because you may give up momentum or field position,” Otterbein said of the onside kick call. “But it worked out per­fectly, and that’s the kind of stuff you do on home­coming.”

The Chargers’ first-team offense scored touch­downs on all seven of its pos­ses­sions on the field, and Hillsdale’s lead swelled to 42 – 0 by halftime.

Junior quar­terback Chance Stewart was as effi­cient as he was effective, com­pleting 16 of 21 passes for 281 yards and four touch­downs. He added two more touch­downs on the ground.

“We just wanted to come out, make a statement, put our foot down from the get-go, and show that we’re ready,” Stewart said. “It was nice to play on home­coming and in all phases, just really dom­inate the whole football game.”

Stewart’s efforts earned him the G-MAC offensive Player of the Week award, the second con­sec­utive week a Hillsdale football player received the honor.

Thirteen dif­ferent Chargers caught passes in the victory. Junior wide receiver Trey Brock again led the receiving corps, hauling in six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Brennan had two recep­tions, and made the most of both. The first was a 3-yard touchdown; the second was a 66-yard high­light-reel score in which he outran the Pan­thers’ sec­ondary on his way to the end zone.

“We usually run that play for wide receivers, but the coaching staff had enough faith in me to run it this week,” Brennan said. “I thought it was going to be open just based on the film, and once I caught it, I just headed for the pylon, didn’t want to get caught from behind, and it worked out.”

The two touch­downs were the first two of Brennan’s col­le­giate career.

Junior wide receiver Austin San­dusky caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from backup quar­terback Steven Ficyk in the fourth quarter to put the Chargers over the 50-point threshold for the first time since home­coming last season.

Ficyk directed the offense for four pos­ses­sions in the second half, giving Stewart a rest thanks to the lop­sided score. The sophomore quar­terback led the Chargers to scoring oppor­tu­nities three times.

“When you compare [Ficyk and Stewart], they’re both good quar­ter­backs,” San­dusky said. “It’s the same offense, nothing dif­ferent. They know it, we know it. The routes are all the same. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing our jobs.”

Ficyk fin­ished the game 7-for-11 with 108 yards passing. Third-string red­shirt freshman quar­terback Ty Cox made it onto the field for the Chargers’ last offensive pos­session of the game.

Hillsdale con­tinues to get pro­duction out of its back­field, despite the news that 2016 hon­orable mention all-GLIAC running back Joe Reverman will miss the remainder of the season. The junior entered the year recov­ering from off­season knee surgery, and re-aggra­vated the injury on Sept. 9 against Michigan Tech. He, along with doctors, decided another surgery is his best option in the long run.

In the meantime, sophomore running back David Graham con­tinued to build on his impressive year, car­rying the ball 14 times for 64 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. He now has seven touch­downs this season, and has scored in all five games.

“It’s a goal to score every week, but that’s just a per­sonal goal,” Graham said. “The goal, obvi­ously, for the team is to win, so whatever that takes.”

Stewart actually led the Chargers in total rushing, edging Graham with 70 yards on three carries.

“I teased him a little about that. I let him know how upset I was,” Graham joked. “It was funny. I started laughing after the game when I heard about him being the leading rusher.”

In addition to his two touchdown scrambles, Stewart rumbled for 50 yards on a third down late in the second quarter.

“In my mind, I want to throw the football every time,” Stewart said. “But picking up those extra first downs with your legs can really hurt a defense.”

Hillsdale con­verted on eight of 14 third-down oppor­tu­nities, and went 2-for-2 on fourth down attempts. One of the fourth down con­ver­sions went for a touchdown to junior tight end Drew Zwiers.

As much as the game was high­lighted by Stewart’s per­for­mance and the offense’s lethal attack, the Chargers’ defense was stingy all day long, holding the Pan­thers to just 141 total yards of offense and a woeful 1-for-14 on third downs.

Sophomore line­backer Dan Shanley said that during halftime, the defense made it an objective to keep the Pan­thers off the board for two more quarters.

“Our defense isn’t going to get pushed around by anybody,” Shanley said. “We’re not going to roll over when we’re down, and we’re not going to let up when we’re ahead, which was big for us this week.”

Shanley helped pre­serve the shutout with a third-quarter inter­ception at Hillsdale’s goal line. He returned the pick 70 yards, setting up the Chargers’ offense in Ken­tucky Wesleyan’s ter­ritory.

Sophomore defensive lineman Elliot Laisure led the defensive unit with 1.5 sacks, junior lineman Charlie Yost and red­shirt freshmen linemen Zach Van­Valkenburg and Schuyler Snell all notched a sack, and sophomore line­backer Wain Clarke had half a sack.

“On both sides of the ball we were in pretty good shape on the line of scrimmage, and that’s where it all starts,” Otterbein said. “Con­trolling the run game dic­tated the fact that we were able to put pressure on the quar­terback because they were in more 3rd-and-long sit­u­a­tions.”

Tied atop the G-MAC with the Chargers are Ohio Dominican Uni­versity and the Uni­versity of Findlay,  both also unde­feated in the con­ference. Those happen to be the next two teams on Hillsdale’s schedule.

“We’ve still got a tough schedule ahead of us,” Graham said. “I think this win shows those teams that we’re going to be con­tenders in this league.”

The Chargers travel to Columbus, Ohio this Sat­urday, Oct. 7, for ODU’s home­coming game at noon. The last time Hillsdale played Ohio Dominican was two seasons ago, when the Chargers lost 34 – 29, in Stewart’s first col­le­giate start.

“That will be a huge game for us,” Stewart said. “Their defense two years ago was really good. Their offense is pow­erful. When you have an opponent like that, at their place, for their home­coming, we just have to keep the momentum going.”

Hillsdale’s next home game is Oct. 14 against Findlay, and ESPN3 will be on site to cover the action. The con­ference clash will be ESPN’s first broadcast of Chargers football in school history.