Ever since the Hillsdale College Chargers qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs after the regular season ended, the individual recognitions have been pouring in. Even after the Chargers’ season came to an end on Nov. 25 in the second round of the playoffs, more honors are being announced.
Most notably, senior quarterback Chance Stewart was named the G‑MAC Player of the Year, and is one of nine finalists for the Harlon Hill award, the Heisman equivalent for Division II. The winner will be announced Dec. 14.
Stewart broke the program’s all-time record for passing yards and touchdown passes this season, becoming the first quarterback in 126 years of Hillsdale football to throw for more than 10,000 yards and 70 touchdowns in a career.
“All that stuff is cool. It really is,” Stewart said. “It’s stuff that I’ll be able to someday bring my kids back here and brag to them all about it, and they’ll think it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Stewart threw for 3,588 yards and 28 touchdowns in his senior season, both single-season career-bests. He ended the season ranked third in all of Division II in total passing yards.
“For me to be able to accomplish things like that, I have to have a supporting cast around me that really excels,” Stewart said. “It’s easy to put numbers up when you’re a quarterback when you have so much talent around you. I was lucky to be at Hillsdale with such a great supporting cast around me.”
Stewart led the G‑MAC in nearly every statistical category among quarterbacks, including passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. He also led the conference in total yards and total touchdowns, among all offensive players.
Stewart’s favorite target in the passing game during his four years at Hillsdale was senior wide receiver Trey Brock. Brock ended the season leading all of Division II in total receiving yards, with 1,422 in 13 games. He was the only wide receiver in the G‑MAC with more than 1,000 yards receiving this season.
“Trey had a great year on the
field. He made big plays for us every week,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “He and Chance developed a good chemistry and were on the same page.”
Brock averaged 118.5 receiving yards per game. He was the only wide receiver in the G‑MAC to average more than 100 per game. His 17 touchdown receptions were a single-season career-best, the most in the G‑MAC, and the third most in Division II.
On Wednesday, Brock was named First-Team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. This is the first time a Hillsdale football player has received All-American recognition since Brock earned Second-Team honors in 2016, his sophomore season.
“It means a lot to be recognized,” Brock said. “After a crazy season like the one we had, it’s cool to see a bunch of us getting recognized.”
Brock’s 79 total receptions this season and 18 yards per reception were also conference-bests. He ends his four-year Hillsdale career as the program’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He holds the all-time receiving yards record by more than a 1,300-yard margin.
Otterbein received the G‑MAC Coach of the Year award. He led the team to a 9 – 2 regular season record that included a perfect 8 – 0 record against conference opponents. Otterbein won the Coach of the Year award in 2009 and 2011 when Hillsdale was in the GLIAC.
Since Hillsdale joined the NCAA in 1990, the program has now made three appearances in the Division II playoffs, all under Otterbein. The Chargers’ 40 – 26 win against Kutztown University in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 18 was the program’s first postseason win since 2009.
The team’s 2018 G‑MAC championship was the program’s first conference championship since the 2011 GLIAC championship. Otterbein also eclipsed 100 wins in his Hillsdale coaching career in a victory against Ohio Dominican University on Sept. 15. His 108 career wins are 30 shy of Frank “Muddy” Waters, the program’s all-time winningest coach.
“It’s such a grind. I think what I really tried to do was enjoy the ride a little bit while it was there. Loving it while I was there and getting up every day and going out there,” Otterbein said of the 2018 season. “This was a great group to coach. They were fun, upbeat, and had great work ethic, along with the efforts of the staff. I can’t tell you how great of a job this staff did coaching.”
Along with Stewart, Brock, and Otterbein, a host of Chargers also received recognition from the NCAA and the G‑MAC for their performances this season.
Stewart and Brock, along with senior center Drew Callahan, earned First-Team All-Region honors for Super Region I by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association. Senior safety Wyatt Batdorff, sophomore defensive end Zach VanValkenburg, and sophomore kicker Joe Philipp were named Second-Team All-Region.
Callahan was named G‑MAC Offensive Lineman of the Year, Batdorff was named G‑MAC Defensive Back of the Year, and VanValkenburg was named G‑MAC Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Along with Stewart, Brock, Callahan, Batdorff, VanValkenburg, and Philipp, three more Chargers earned First-Team All-Conference recognition from the G‑MAC: senior tight end John Brennan, senior linebacker Jay Rose, and junior offensive lineman Mark Konkle.
In the next nine months, Otterbein will need to discover who the team’s next starting quarterback will be. Replacing Stewart, like all of the impact seniors from the 2018 season, won’t be easy, especially when so many were recognized among the best and whose names are at the top of the Hillsdale record books.
The Chargers didn’t play a single true freshman this season, meaning next year’s team will have an entire squad of redshirt freshman ready to make an impact along with an incoming freshman class. Otterbein said he thinks this year’s success will fuel next year’s expectations.
“I think an attitude about what it takes to be a championship team is going to linger from this group,” Otterbein said. “Team 127 is going to have the luxury of those high expectations and standards. A very good foundation for further success has been laid.”