The day following their 54 – 0 trouncing of Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, the Hillsdale College Chargers officially put a bow on their 125th season with the annual football awards banquet.
Junior wide receiver Trey Brock, an honorable mention All-American last year, was recognized as the team’s Most Valuable Player for a second consecutive season.
“It’s sweet. It means a lot coming from my teammates,” Brock said. “It’s pretty cool that they view me as that guy. It’s definitely a huge honor for me.”
Brock led the Chargers with 74 receptions, 1,174 yards, and eight touchdown catches in 2017.
“I’ve worked on leading by example, especially now that I’m one of the older guys,” Brock said. “Throughout the season, I’ve been trying to establish myself as a leader by example, especially for the younger guys.”
His 74 receptions set a single-season G-MAC record, and his 302 receiving yards on Sept. 23 against the University of Indianapolis were the most in any NCAA Division II game this year.
“I definitely could have played a lot better in some games,” Brock said. “I’m happy we ended up 7 – 4 and that I had a decent year. But there’s definitely a lot of work to be done going into my last year.”
Brock will enter his senior season just 114 yards shy of the all-time school record for receiving yards, held by current Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Holmes.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Brock said of his climb in the record books. “Just want to finish my career off on the best note possible. Do better than I did my past two years, and do everything I can to do good individually which will end up helping the team in the long run.”
Hillsdale graduates three starting offensive linemen, all of whom were recognized with awards. Senior left tackle Jake Bull won the Leonard Urbanick Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Ability. Senior right guard Zach VanOrman won the Coach’s Award. Senior center Danny Drummond was named the team’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman for a third consecutive season.
“There are a lot of great players on the offensive line,” Drummond said. “It’s really an honor, especially to be chosen by Coach Shreffler, our position coach, who I really respect and think the world of. I really appreciate the honor and being recognized by him is really special.”
Junior quarterback Chance Stewart was named the team’s Most Outstanding Offensive Back. He completed 60 percent of his passes this season for 2,695 yards, threw 16 touchdowns, and rushed for six more. Stewart was the only non-senior captain on the 2017 team.
“With three years of experience as the Chargers’ starting quarterback, Stewart said he feels in control of and comfortable with the offense.
“Our type of system is pretty complex, so the best way to learn it is just getting reps in it,” Stewart said. “I feel like I’m at a point now where I have full control of the offense, I know what’s going on, and I’m just getting ready for my senior year now. I won’t have to worry about that as much, and can just go out there and play football.”
Junior defensive back Wyatt Batdorff was named the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Back. Batdorff led the team in total tackles for a second consecutive season. His 87 tackles were fourth-most among defenders in the G-MAC.
“It means a lot. I think everybody deserved it among the defensive backs,” Batdorff said of the award. “We all played a great season. I’m pretty honored to accept it. I’m just looking forward to the future, because now I’m one of the oldest defensive backs, so I’m just moving my role from one of the normal guys to being a leader and a captain. That’s my new goal now.”
Sophomore linebacker Nate Jones was named the team’s Most Outstanding Linebacker. Jones was a regular recipient of the team’s weekly Big Stick award, given to a defensive player who applies a big hit in a game. Head coach Keith Otterbein said he was impressed with Jones’ development in his first season as a starter. Jones’ 55 tackles were third-most on the team this year.
Two senior defensive linemen were recognized with awards. Defensive tackle Matt Hall won the Howard “Champ” Messenger Award. His counterpart, Jordon Harlamert, was named the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman. Hall and Harlamert were stalwarts in the trenches for Hillsdale all season.
Redshirt freshman defensive back Alex Anschutz won the One Play Warrior Award. The One Play Warrior is a special teams award the coaches give throughout the season. For every play on special teams, each player is graded positively or negatively based on their execution of their assignment for that play. Once a player accumulates 50 positive points over the course of the season, they are recognized as a One Play Warrior.
Anschutz tallied the greatest number of points on special teams over the course of the year, so he was recognized as the team’s One Play Warrior for the entire year. Anschutz made 41 tackles this season, many of them on special teams.
Senior wide receiver Timmy Mills won the Every Player Every Play Award, an award that is given after every game. Mills was recognized as the E.P.E.P for the entire season.
“The E.P.E.P goes to kind of an unsung hero guy, maybe he contributes on offense and special teams, just a grinder, maybe it’s a guy that steps in for an injured guy,” Otterbein said. “It’s a selfless, team-oriented kind of deal, a guy that’s really doing his job at a very high level, being very dependable.”
Mills finished the season with 36 receptions and 433 yards, second to Brock in both categories. He also handled kick return, punt return, and holding duties on special teams.
“I really wasn’t expecting to get it, so when I got it, I was really happy, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment that I did my job here,” Mills said. “The coaches are seeing that, and they’re giving me the respect that I may or may not deserve, and I’m just very thankful for them awarding me that.”
With a number of influential seniors on the team this year, many players commented on the closeness and chemistry of the team, as well as the culture the seniors created in the locker room and on the field.
“It was great being able to learn from Danny, Jake, Matt, [senior linebacker] Scott Penola, those seniors,” Stewart said. “Just being able to take a step back at times and learning how they handle situations, their leadership type, and how they go about their day-to-day business.”
Otterbein said the bond among the players was something he noticed throughout the year.
“This team became very close,” Otterbein said. “They bonded, they fought through the adversity of the couple bumps we had in the road mid-season. They recommitted themselves to each other and showed up.”
Although they didn’t meet their goal of winning the conference and advancing to the playoffs, Otterbein and the team shared positive sentiments about their first season in the G-MAC.
“It was fun coming to work every day. This was really a fun, good group to coach,” Otterbein said. “Their energy was always there, they were upbeat, they were positive. When they did get knocked down, they re-engaged, they didn’t pout or feel sorry for themselves. They just went about the process of preparing for the next opponent, and that is a big compliment to the leadership of the senior group.”