The Hillsdale College Chargers fell in their regular season finale, 34 – 24 against the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds on the road on Saturday. Hillsdale finishes the regular season 9 – 2 and 8 – 0 in the G-MAC.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for Hillsdale. The Greyhounds were the third nationally-ranked team Hillsdale has played this season. The Chargers beat the first two. But despite the result, the Chargers were selected to compete in the NCAA Division II playoffs for just the third time in school history.
“There’s stuff to work on. By no means do you come out and think you’re a world-beater,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “This reality check helps refocus our guys. I don’t look at it as a negative.”
The loss drops Hillsdale to No. 23 in the national rankings. Indianapolis remains at No. 12. The Chargers were tied with the Greyhounds at seven at the end of the first quarter, 14 at halftime, and 17 at the end of the third quarter.
A 64-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 35-yard touchdown pass gave Indianapolis the edge in the fourth quarter, and senior quarterback Chance Stewart threw an interception on Hillsdale’s final possession to seal the win for the Greyhounds.
“We know we can win those games,” Stewart said. “We didn’t execute on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We’ll watch the film, flush it and move on, and get ready to go for Saturday.”
Hillsdale got the ball to begin the game, but a blocked field goal attempt kept the Chargers off the board on their first drive.
On Hillsdale’s second drive, however, junior running back Christian Shepler’s two-yard touchdown run put the Chargers ahead, 7 – 0. The scoring drive was punctuated by a 63-yard pass from Stewart to sophomore tight end Martin Petersen that moved the ball inside the Greyhounds’ five yard line.
The back-and-forth began, and Indianapolis tied the game before the end of the first quarter. Junior running back David Graham’s 14th touchdown run of the season, a one-yard score, put the Chargers back ahead in the second quarter.
Indianapolis tied the game at 14 before halftime and took a 17 – 14 lead with a field goal early in the third quarter. Sophomore kicker Joe Philipp’s 32-yard field goal tied the game at 17 until the Greyhounds took the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
Stewart connected with senior wide receiver Trey Brock for completions of 38 and 30 yards on consecutive plays for Hillsdale’s only score of the fourth quarter. The 30-yard completion went for a touchdown, Brock’s 14th touchdown reception of the year.
Stewart completed 16 of 29 passes for 221 yards. With at least one more game remaining in his career at Hillsdale, Stewart is just 107 yards shy of Troy Weatherhead’s school record for passing yards, at 9,544.
Stewart has already set single-season career highs in completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns in his senior year. He said he’s grateful for the chance to play in a playoff game this weekend.
“I get to play another football game for Hillsdale. Just really happy and thankful for the opportunity,” Stewart said. “To be able to be on this team is pretty special. Really excited for the opportunity.”
Brock’s 14 touchdowns are a single-season career high, and fourth-most in all of NCAA Division II. He caught eight passes for 124 yards on Saturday, his sixth game this season with 100 or more receiving yards. In his four-year career at Hillsdale, Brock has at least 100 receiving yards in 23 of the 42 games he’s played in.
On the defensive side, the Chargers allowed 269 rushing yards, the most in a game this season. Senior defensive back Wyatt Batdorff said the Greyhounds’ spread offense led to their big day on the ground. Hillsdale’s run defense is typically one of the team’s strengths, as it allows the third-fewest yards per game in the conference.
“They made the gaps much wider and that makes it harder for the linebackers and defensive backs to make tackles,” Batdorff said. “That was a little bit uncharacteristic of us. If we go back to our basics, we should be fine.”
Batdorff led the defense with nine total tackles, and is second on the team with 82 tackles this season. Senior linebacker Jay Rose, who had six tackles on Saturday, leads the team this season with 86.
Batdorff also said the loss may serve to bring the team down to earth after going more than two months without losing. But he remains confident in the team’s prospects during the playoffs.
“It puts us into a reality check a little. We’re still a good team, but it humbles us a little,” Batdorff said. “I think it’ll help that we actually have to work much harder to win games. We can’t just roll up and expect to win. You’ve gotta put a lot more effort into it.”