Hanover 7, Bluffton 6
Hanover finds end zone with 1:43 left in contest for 7-6 victory at Bluffton
October 28, 2006
BLUFFTON, Ohio - In a battle between teams that have struggled for victories in 2006, the Hanover Panthers came up big when it counted as they scored the game's only touchdown with 1:43 on the clock for a 7-6 victory over Bluffton University on a windy Saturday, October 28, 2006. With the loss, the Beavers fell to 3-5 and 2-3 in the Heartland Conference while the Panthers improved to 3-5, including a 3-2 mark in the HCAC.
On the first possession of the game, Hanover handed Bluffton a golden opportunity when Alex Kiel had his second-down pass intercepted by Sam McCullough (Bluffton/Bluffton) at the visitor's 10-yard line. The Beavers gained only four yards on three rushing attempts and had to settle for a 23-yard Justin Guy (Oregon/Clay) field goal less than four minutes into the contest.
A bad snap to punter Rick Webster on Hanover's second possession again put the Beavers in excellent field position at the Panthers' 30-yard line, but an illegal motion penalty forced a 41-yard Guy field goal attempt which came up short midway through the first quarter.
Neither team was able to get its offense going through the second and third quarters as the torn-up field made play calling predictable. Both defenses geared up to stop the run and except for a few draw plays, first downs came at a premium.
Bluffton was still clinging to its tenuous 3-0 advantage as it took over on the home 36-yard line with 11:44 left in the game. A 25-yard strike to Anthony Bryant (Reynoldsburg/Reynoldsburg) from Owens on the first play from scrimmage moved the ball to the Hanover 29-yard line. Joel Sienicki (Goshen, Ind./Northridge) hauled in a huge reception on fourth and two as the Beavers moved the chains with a first down at the 25-yard line. The Panthers' defense stepped up and kept Hanover in the game when it held Bluffton to a 35-yard Guy field goal with 6:26 left on the clock.
Webster took control on Hanover's ensuing possession which started at the Panthers' 23-yard line. On the second play of the drive, he found an open Corey Stewart for a huge 35-yard gain to the Bluffton 37. He continued to pick apart the Beavers' defense, finding C.J. Karpiak and Andrew Houtsch before his 10-yard scamper gave the Panthers a third and two from the home five-yard line. A one-yard Chan Nelson gain set up a fourth and two with the game hanging in the balance. Although his fourth down pass was knocked down, Bluffton was whistled for being offside, giving the Panthers a new set of downs from the two. Webster found Bobby Smart on first down and the Panthers took the lead for the first time with 1:43 left in the contest.
Bluffton was not finished and it fashioned one of its best drives of the afternoon. Starting at the home 32-yard line, Owens found Mike Brown (North Wales, Pa./Calvary Christian Academy) and Sienicki for a pair of completions which had the Beavers in Hanover territory. Following a nine-yard Owens gain, Alex Middendorf sealed the win for Hanover when he picked off a Bluffton pass with only 10 seconds to play.
Hanover picked up 12 first downs in the contest compared to nine for the Beavers. Bluffton gained 223 yards, including 154 on the ground, while it limited Hanover to 166 yards for the day, 121 of which came through the air. The Beavers controlled the ball for 33:44, but mustered only a pair of field goals from the offense. Neither team fared well on third down as the Beavers were two-of-16 and the Panthers finished four-of-15.
Owens led the Beavers with 25 rushes for 85 yards while junior Terence Clayton (Napoleon/Napoleon) picked up 41 yards on nine carries. The weather conditions slowed the Bluffton passing attack as Owens completed six-of-13 passes for 69 yards with one interception. Sienicki and Aaron Whitlock (Grove City/Central Crossing) both finished with two receptions to lead the Beavers.
Sam McCullough took advantage of a Panther offense that was forced to run as he finished with a game-high 17 stops, while forcing a fumble and picking off a Hanover pass on the first possession of the game. Senior Bryan Lloyd (Elida/Bath) was in on 10 tackles, including 1.5 TFL's for a loss of four yards. Standout sophomore defensive end Kyle Rode (Delphos/Jefferson) forced a fumble and dropped the Panthers for an eight-yard loss with his third quarter sack.
Bluffton's road does not get any easier as it travels to face undefeated and two-year reigning Heartland Conference champion Mount St. Joseph on Saturday, November 4, 2006. Kickoff in Cincinnati is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.