Bluffton 51, Earlham 20
October 17, 2015
By: Gtiffin Kuras, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton Beavers welcomed Earlham College to Salzman Stadium for another HCAC bout on Saturday, Oct. 17. The Quakers entered the game with an 0-6 record and they stayed winless, falling to 0-7 overall and 0-5 in the conference. The Beavers took advantage of a reeling Earlham team and boosted their record back to .500, reaching 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the HCAC. The game was one-sided in a 51-20 victory for the home team.
The Beaver defense started off strong, forcing a quick three-and-out and giving the offense the ball with 12:01 left in the first quarter. Devante THomas-Wright (Kings Clint.Twp., Mich./Chippewa Valley) was able to rush for some nice chunk yardage early in the game, helping move the Beavers down the field. The Beaver offense took advantage of the aggressive blitz as Connor Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) was able to loft one over the top to Korbin Showalter (Haviland/Wayne Trace) for six. The first quarter scoring wasn’t quite over for Bluffton as they showed off their quick-strike ability with a 66-yard slant pass from Sheehan to Micah Roberson (Ada) to make the score 14-0. The scoring continued in an unconventional way as the Beaver defense forced a fourth down punt with the Quakers backed up against their own end zone following two straight Bluffton sacks from Ryan Aelker (New Bavaria/Holgate) and Isaac Zackafoose (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge). The snap went high and sailed out of play, resulting in a Bluffton safety and 16-0 spread.
The second quarter was more of the same, seeing Bluffton dominate on both sides of the ball. Taking advantage of a very short field off a shanked punt the Beavers only needed two plays to find paydirt behind the legs of Dante Carroll (Gahanna/Lincoln) for a 24-yard rushing strike. Carroll was able to extend the play to the sideline before turning up the field and hitting second gear. The Bluffton offense continued surging as Sheehan was able to hit Aelker on a beautifully thrown goal line fade, extending the lead to 30-0. Colby Speice (Paulding/Wayne Trace) was not to be outdone by Sheehan and came in looking to show off his arm, hitting Zach Zavakos (Dayton/Chaminade) for his first catch of the season on a 39-yard touchdown pass to push the score all the way to 37-0 at the break.
The second half saw a different Quaker team on the field, as they were able to start the third quarter by forcing a Bluffton punt before taking advantage of the momentum with a 7-play, 70-yard drive capped off with a 31-yard quarterback scramble for the score. Bluffton was not deterred after Sheehan threw an interception, as Matt Holden (Convoy/Crestview) was able to get one right back. Speice connected with Raphael Dell (Cincinnati/Hughes) on a quick 12-yard strike. Dell fumbled near the goal line and Bluffton’s center Colton Kelso (Coshocton/River Valley) surprised even himself as he picked it up and dove into the end zone for a touchdown!
In the fourth quarter the Quakers attempted their best comeback but the deficit was too much to overcome Wesley Hundley and Jalen Kenner were on the same page in the second half as they were able to hook up twice for touchdowns on almost the same play both times. The scoring was not yet finished for Bluffton, as Carroll was able to split the defense and keep the legs moving for a 1-yard touchdown run.
Thomas-Wright continued his 100-yard rushing ways, netting 101 yards on just 11 attempts. Adding another 11 carries was Carroll for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Speice had 11 pass attempts, completing seven of them for 99 yards and a touchdown and Sheehan had 11 attempts, completing eight for 156 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Roberson had five catches for 114 yards and a touchdown; with those five receptions, Micah moves just three catches away from breaking the single season receptions record (62).
The Beaver defense was dominant, racking up eight sacks on the day. Brad Swavel (Marion/Ridgedale) led the team in tackles with seven total, adding a sack to his totals. Linkoln LaRoche (Dola/Hardin Northern), Edgar Gonzalez (Melvindale, Mich./Melvindale) and Zickafoose all added sacks. Aelker and Josh Dotson (Southfield, Mich./Southfield-Lathrop) contributed two sacks each to the impressive total for the day. Holden chipped in with four tackles to go along with his third quarter interception.
Bluffton rolled up 530 yards of total offense, compared to just 283 for the visitors. The Beavers went for 275 on the ground and scored on 3-of-4 opportunities in the red zone. Bluffton converted 3-of-4 fourth down tries and moved the chains 24 times.
The Beavers will hit they road next weekend when they travel to Manchester University. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24.