Senior quarterback Chance Stewart calls it “the biggest football game I’ve ever played in.” On Saturday, the Hillsdale College Chargers will have a shot to win a regular-season conference championship for the first time since 2011. Standing between Hillsdale and a G-MAC regular-season championship are the Tiffin University Dragons, undefeated for the season and ranked No. 15 nationally. Hillsdale enters the weekend ranked No. 25.
The Chargers’ only loss this season came in a non-conference game against Michigan Tech University on Sept. 8. Hillsdale, like Tiffin, is undefeated in the G-MAC. The nearest teams to Tiffin and Hillsdale in the conference standings are the University of Findlay and Ohio Dominican University. Both teams are two games behind the Chargers and Dragons, so whoever emerges victorious on Saturday will clinch the regular season conference championship.
Hillsdale last played Tiffin in 2016, when both teams were in the GLIAC. The Dragons won, 37 – 20. The last time Tiffin played on the Chargers’ turf, Hillsdale won 38 – 24 on Oct. 24, 2015. That win was the first of Stewart’s career at Hillsdale.
Tiffin and Hillsdale have seemingly been on a collision course toward Saturday’s game all season long. The teams rank first or second in the conference, or second and first, in numerous statistical categories.
The Chargers’ defense ranks first in the conference in points allowed per game, interceptions, and pass defense efficiency, while the Dragons are second in each of those categories. Tiffin controls time of possession and converts fourth downs on offense better than any other team in the G-MAC.
But senior wide receiver Trey Brock, who leads Hillsdale and the G-MAC in receiving yards per game, said he and the Chargers have no doubt who will be the superior team on Saturday.
“We have a lot of confidence. When we beat them, it’s not going to be an upset,” Brock said. “I believe we’re the better team. I don’t think they want it more than we do. Everybody is on board.”
Head coach Keith Otterbein’s one-game-at-a-time focus is ever-important as the Chargers prepare for their biggest game of the season to date. Should they win on Saturday, the Chargers could be playing for a berth in the NCAA playoffs the next week against the University of Indianapolis. But Hillsdale’s current focus is on Tiffin, and Tiffin only.
“You go and do all that work all spring, all summer, and all fall, and right now, what you do is you take all that in perspective,” Otterbein said. “You go through the same process, get ready in the same way, and let the game come to you.”
Stewart may consider this Saturday the biggest game of his life, but he also displayed that perspective.
“It’s week 10,” Stewart said. “This is just another G-MAC game.”
He’s right about that. It also happens to be the G-MAC’s game of the year.