The Hillsdale College Chargers extended their winning streak to seven games on Saturday in a commanding 34 – 0 win against the Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers. After shutting out opponents three separate times last season, the shutout against the Panthers this season is the Chargers’ first.
In the game, senior wide receiver Trey Brock became Hillsdale’s all-time leader in receptions, catching five passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Brock has caught 222 passes in his four-year career at Hillsdale, and already set records for most receiving yards and most touchdown receptions in a career earlier this season.
“I try not to pay too much attention to it. When I came here, I wanted to do those things because I knew how much I was willing to work,” Brock said. “I didn’t have any specific goals, I just wanted to come and work as hard as I could and be the best player I could, and I knew if I did that, I could break some records. Those were my expectations. It’s definitely an honor to have those accolades.”
Hillsdale’s defense entered the game leading the G-MAC in fewest points allowed per game, and the win lowers the Chargers’ points allowed per game average to just 16.7. Despite the offense throwing four interceptions, Hillsdale’s defense intercepted two passes, forced and recovered a fumble, and forced a turnover on downs.
“It was critical that we were getting it back. Just didn’t make some great decisions,” head coach Keith Otterbein said of the turnover-heavy game. “I think we were trying to force things early. Trying to get ahead of ourselves instead of letting the game come to us, but we’ve got to do a great job of taking care of the ball and we didn’t make the greatest decisions on some of those throws.”
Senior quarterback Chance Stewart threw two interceptions, freshman wide receiver Alec Foos threw an interception on a trick play, and backup sophomore quarterback Ty Cox threw an interception. The four interceptions were the most thrown by the Chargers in a game this season.
“We’ve got to improve a lot from this past week. We were sloppy with the football. I missed out on a few deeper throws,” Stewart said. “We just need to clean things up, we were able to get away with it against Kentucky Wesleyan, but this week we really need to be locked in with laser focus and have a really good week of preparation. I know the guys will.”
Stewart eventually settled in, and distributed the ball to nine different receivers, led by Brock. Brock’s first touchdown grab opened the scoring, an 11-yard pass he caught at the goal line and reached the ball into the end zone for the score. His second touchdown catch came on a 67-yard bomb from Stewart.
“The times we were able to push the ball down the field, it worked great,” Stewart said. “We’ve been doing that all year; that’s one of our strengths.”
The performance was Brock’s fourth 100-yard-plus receiving game this season. After catching just one pass for six yards between the season’s first two games, Brock is averaging 113 receiving yards per game in his last seven games, all against conference opponents.
“Really happy for him. His teammates are happy for him. He’s a heck of a player,” Otterbein said. “He’s had a solid career, but he’s turned it up this year and really worked hard. He’s practicing hard and trying to work on all aspects of his game.”
Both teams’ first offensive possessions of the game ended in interceptions. Hillsdale got the ball to begin the game, but Stewart underthrew a deep ball intended for Brock that was intercepted. The Chargers got the ball back, however, when sophomore defensive back Alex Anschutz intercepted a pass to set up Hillsdale’s first scoring drive. The interception was Anschutz’s fourth of the year to lead the team.
Junior running back David Graham ran for a pair of touchdowns to extend the Chargers’ lead to 21 – 0, and junior linebacker Nate Jones’s interception in the end zone in the closing seconds of the first half ensured the Panthers would be kept scoreless at halftime.
Graham’s two rushing touchdowns give him 12 on the season, tied for the most in the G-MAC. He carried the ball 17 times for 73 yards in the game, and has found the end zone in eight consecutive games.
“Just solid. He takes care of the ball, gets yards after contact, and has been really good in pass protection,” Otterbein said. “He’s had a really, really solid year to back up what was a really solid year last year.”
In his second year as the Chargers’ starting running back, Graham said consistency and familiarity has been key to his performance as the season has progressed.
“Later in the season, we’re starting to get a feel of where the blocks are and what the schemes are like,” Graham said. “Our passing game also helps open up the run a lot. We’re doing a good job with a really well-balanced attack right now.”
Stewart completed 15 of 26 passes for 250 yards in the win. With two regular season games remaining, he is now just 596 yards shy of Troy Weatherhead’s record for most passing yards in program history.
The Chargers (8 – 1, 7 – 0 G-MAC) remain at home this Saturday as they take on the Tiffin University Dragons (9 – 0, 6 – 0). Since both teams are undefeated against G-MAC opponents, the winner will earn the regular season conference championship. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. as the team will also celebrate Senior Day during the final home game of the year.
“It’s championship week. You can’t ask for a better ending to play for a championship on Senior Day,” Stewart said. “The story is there, we just have to go out there and execute and do our job. The guys will be really focused this week and locked in. It will be a really fun time.”