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David Graham hurdles a defender during Hills­dale’s second-round playoff game against Notre Dame College last November. Graham has rushed for 34 touch­downs in the past two seasons. (Picture: S. Nathaniel Grime | Col­legian)

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.”