The Hillsdale College Chargers withstood a fourth quarter comeback from the Tiffin University Dragons to win their first conference game of the season, 24 – 21. Tiffin was ranked first in the coaches preseason poll this season, and entered the matchup with a 3 – 1 record.
Redshirt sophomore Garritt Aissen started the game at quarterback for the Chargers and passed for 63 yards and a touchdown, as both junior Luke Keller and sophomore Jake Burger suffered season-ending injuries in last week’s game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers were led by senior defensive back Joe Schneider, who was awarded G‑MAC Defensive Player of the Week after his eight tackles and two interceptions.
In addition to Burger and Keller, the Chargers continued to lose starters to injuries. Starting defensive backs Josh Peroni and Matt Harding both exited the game early, Peroni with a concussion and Harding after injuring his left leg making a tackle, but both are expected to be back in the starting lineup next week. Senior punter Jack Shannon, who punted for 447 yards off 10 attempts, commented on the team’s response to injuries.
“Next man up is really what we believe in,” Shannon said. “Every guy on our team was recruited and belongs on the team for a reason, and when it’s your time to shine, you got to go.”
The first quarter began with a pair of interceptions by Schneider and redshirt freshman defensive back Jackson Gillock, the second of which led to the Chargers’ first score of the game, a 41-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Julian Lee. Despite a forced fumble by senior defensive lineman Kyle Parran, the next score of the game wouldn’t come until 8:38 left in the second quarter, when the Chargers scored off of a 1‑yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman runningback Jack Robinson, who finished the game with 96 yards and 1 touchdown. Tiffin retaliated with the last scoring drive of the half, culminating in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Nick Watson to Anthony Lowe, to make the score 10 – 7 after the first half.
Schneider credited the Chargers’ defensive line for the role they played in the secondary’s 3 interceptions.
“What led to them was our D‑line getting pressure up front, getting pressure in the face of quarterbacks, making them make bad decisions,” Schnieder said. “It’s pretty easy to go get the ball back when the quarterback is making bad decisions.”
The Chargers received the second half kickoff, and, after a 65-yard run by Robinson, scored the first touchdown of the half off of a 1‑yard rush by Aissen. After a Tiffin punt, Aissen led the Chargers on another scoring drive, ending in an 18-yard touchdown pass to junior halfback Kyle Nyboer and making the score 24 – 7 with 7:26 in the third quarter. Tiffin’s next score did not come until a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Watson to Lowe made it 24 – 14. Schneider cut short Tiffin’s next offensive drive with an interception, but they scored again off of a 76-yard punt return by Lowe, making it 24 – 21 with only 5:36 remaining. The Charger defense held Tiffin scoreless for the remainder of the game, forcing two turnovers on downs and securing their second straight win.
Schneider offered insight on the changed trajectory of the Chargers season.
“Those first three games can be really deceiving, people see the 0 – 3 record and might think you’re not a good football team,” Schneider said. “We’ve had the talent, it was just putting it all together for 60 straight minutes. The last two weeks we’ve just played a lot more consistent.”
This Saturday the Chargers will host the Walsh University Cavaliers, who are coming off of a four game losing streak. Otterbein offered his thoughts on next week’s matchup.
“We’ve got to guard against overconfidence,” Otterbein said. “The anticipation is they’re going to come in here and play their best football so we’ve got to get ready for the best possible Walsh football team that can show up. Really the measure is not Walsh, it’s how Hillsdale plays and how Hillsdale plays as close to our best potential as we possibly can.”