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Garrit Aissen throws his first col­le­giate pass in the third quarter
Anthony Lupi | Collegian

This past Sat­urday, the Hillsdale College Charger football team capped off home­coming week with a 38 – 31 come-from-behind victory over the Mis­souri S&T Miners to grab their first win of the season. 

The win came despite injuries to first-string quar­terback Luke Keller, who suf­fered a season-ending ACL tear, and second-string quar­terback Jake Burger, who was injured on a quar­terback draw off the left end. 

Red­shirt sophomore Garrit Aissen stepped up in their absence, taking his first in-game snaps as a Charger. In his quarter and a half of play, he passed for 44 yards with just one incom­pletion, as he led the Chargers on the last two scoring drives of the game. 

“Garrit did a nice job and I think per­formed very, very well,” Head Coach Keith Otterbein said. “He’s been chomping at the bit for an oppor­tunity on game day, and it was in the heat of the battle and he per­formed very, very well.”

The Miners returned the first kickoff of the game 86 yards to the Charger 9 yard line, but the Charger defense held them to a field goal. After trading punts, the Charger offense would drive 45 yards down the field, cul­mi­nating in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Keller to red­shirt freshman wide receiver Isaac TeSlaa, making the score 7 – 3 Chargers. 

The Miners retal­iated quickly and thor­oughly, however, scoring 21 unan­swered points and taking a 24 – 7 lead with 10:05 left in the first half. Keller was injured three plays later after picking up 21 yards on a scramble play, but second-stringer Jake Burger stepped in to com­plete the drive, cul­mi­nating in a 30-yard field goal by red­shirt freshman Julian Lee to make the score 24 – 10. 

Lee fin­ished with one field goal for 30 yards, and went five-of-five on extra points. He won G‑MAC Football Special Teams Player of the Week for his effort. He is a perfect 11-for-11 on extra points and 4‑for‑4 on field goals, which makes him one of eight kickers in Division II with a perfect field goal per­centage with more than three attempts.

After a Charger inter­ception and then a lost fumble, senior Matt Harding inter­cepted quar­terback Luke Hertzler and returned the ball 89 yards to the Miners 1‑yard line, setting up a touchdown run by Burger to make the score 24 – 17 at halftime. 

Senior defensive lineman Nate Chambers, who fin­ished the game with 9 tackles and 2 sacks, com­mented on the team’s improvement as the game progressed. 

“There was no magic spell or whatever that fixed every­thing,” Chambers said. “It was just everyone doing their job and flying around and playing confident.”

After receiving the second half kickoff, Burger led the Charger offense on a 71-yard drive, where once again the backup QB took it himself for a 1‑yard touchdown run to tie the game at 24. The Miners opened the fol­lowing drive with a 50-yard pass from Hertzler to Breon Michel, even­tually leading to another Miner touchdown, making the score 31 – 24. 

Burger was injured on the fol­lowing drive, and replaced by Garrett Aissen, who led the Chargers on a nearly seven-minute long drive that cul­mi­nated with red­shirt freshman Jack Robinson rushing for a touchdown with 14:57 left in the game. 

Aissen spoke on his expe­rience coming in after Burger’s injury. 

“After my first play I was calm and col­lected. It just felt like practice,” Aissen said. “I was def­i­nitely nervous going into that first play but right away I got a com­pletion, and I felt the whole team was around me cheering me on.”

The next drive, red­shirt freshman defensive back Bart Bixler blocked the Miner’s punt attempt, setting up Aissen, who threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Michael Harding, giving the Chargers their first lead since the first quarter, 38 – 31. After two stops by the Charger defense, Aissen and the Charger offense bled the last 4:53 of the game and Hillsdale gained their first win on the season. 

Robinson said the home atmos­phere had a big impact on the game. 

“I think the home field advantage def­i­nitely played to our favor and was real in that game,” said Robinson. “Espe­cially when we blocked that punt, you could feel the momentum.” 

The Chargers will travel to Ohio to play the 3 – 1 Tiffin Dragons next Sat­urday. Otterbein said he is happy with the tra­jectory of his team. 

“I think we got better this week,” said Otterbein. “Con­tinued improvement I think is key. Not to take steps back­wards, which I think maybe we did week two and week three. Correct some of the mis­takes, cap­i­talize on some of the things we’re doing well, and gear the game to our strengths if we pos­sibly can.”