The Hillsdale College Chargers struggled to find their rhythm on offense and despite a stingy defensive effort, fell to the Ohio Dominican University Panthers in their season finale on Saturday, 17 – 7. The Chargers’ season ends with two consecutive losses and a 4 – 3 record against conference opponents, good for a fourth-place finish in the G‑MAC standings.
Hillsdale finishes the season 6 – 5 overall for its third consecutive winning season. Against teams that finished the regular season with sub-.500 records, the Chargers went 6 – 0. Against teams with winning records, they went 0 – 4. Against teams that finished the season at .500, they went 0 – 1.
“Our record with Team 127 was 6 – 5 but we’ll know if we were successful 20 years from now,” head coach Keith Otterbein said. “This group set a good foundation for our future success as a football team but more importantly, I think the lessons they learned individually are going to allow them to battle and compete in the future.”
Senior running back David Graham was named the team’s MVP at the team’s annual postseason banquet. Graham rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season for the second time in his career, and finishes his four-year career at Hillsdale with more than 3,000 yards rushing. He is one of only five running backs in program history to pass that mark.
Graham rushed for 15 touchdowns in 2019, and scored 17 touchdowns total. His 52 career touchdowns are tied for second-most of any player in program history. He lead the conference this season in rushing touchdowns and had the second-most rushing yards.
“He’s worked at it. He shows up every day and has been a tough, durable kid,” Otterbein said of Graham. “He’s had to play through some knicks and bruises and bangs throughout the course of his career. He’s just shown a tremendous work ethic.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Keller, who won the starting quarterback position in training camp, started all 11 games this season and ended the season completing just over 50% of his passes for 2113 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also threw 11 interceptions.
Despite the sometimes up-and-down freshman campaign, Keller’s first season under center ranks near the top of program history for Hillsdale quarterbacks playing in their first season as full-time starters. If Keller were merely to replicate his freshman year numbers in the next three years of his career, he would end up third all-time in program history for passing yards and touchdown passes.
Senior defensive back Drake Temple, who intercepted his seventh pass of the season in Saturday’s loss, finishes his career with 162 tackles, 11 interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He was named the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Back during the postseason banquet.
The Tiffin University Dragons, who defeated Hillsdale on Nov. 9 to all but eliminate the Chargers from postseason contention, finished the season undefeated in the G‑MAC to win the conference. Tiffin will play Kutztown University in the first round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs on Saturday.
Last year, the Chargers won the G‑MAC and defeated Kutztown in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Notre Dame College in the second round. This year, their season ends short of a conference championship and a playoff berth, but not without significance for their graduating seniors and returning players next year.
“It wasn’t always easy, and we had some tough things go against us, and yet we persevered and kept plugging along,” Otterbein said, reflecting on his 18th season at the helm of the program. “One way to measure winning and losing is on the scoreboard, but it’s certainly not the only way. The approach we took toward competition is something that will pay big dividends for Team 128.”