Bluffton 16, MSJ 6
September 17, 2016
By: Colton Steiner, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University football team hosted Mount St. Joseph on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Alumni Field. After a slow start by both teams, the Beavers were able to get the upper hand as the Lions struggled to move the ball against Coach Rashawn West's defense. This 16-6 win propelled the Beavers to their first 3-0 on the season since 1999 and more importantly a 1-0 mark in the Heartland Conference. Mount St. Joseph slipped to 0-3 and 0-1 in the HCAC to start the season.
The first quarter was a struggle for both teams as each squad committed a turnover. The Lions converted the only first down of the quarter after a MIKE WILLIAMS 12-yard run.
Bluffton finally punched it into the end zone for the first touchdown of the day after a five-yard rush by senior DANTE CARROLL (Gahanna/Lincoln) with 10:38 to play in the opening half. It gave the Beavers a 6-0 lead following a blocked extra point. After forcing Mount St. Joseph into a three-and-out, Bluffton would take a 13-0 lead when CONNER SHEEHAN (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) connected with sophomore LUCAS ESPITIA (Lincoln Park, Mich./Lincoln Park) in the corner of the end zone for the score. It capped Bluffton's second straight 12-play drive and took over five minutes off the clock.
The Lions got the ball to start the second half and following a 27-yard return, Mike Williams found COREY HASTINGS from two yards out to cap off a 60-yard drive, cutting Bluffton’s lead to 13-6 after a failed extra point attempt. The Beavers responded with a 64-yard drive, going up 16-6 with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter after JORDAN WATKINS (Reynoldsburg) nailed a 28-yard field goal.
With 1:14 left in the game and the score at 16-6, a muffed punt by the Lions that was pounced on by Dylan Shaffer (Shelby) extinguished any hope of a comeback by Mount St. Joseph as Bluffton took a knee twice to run out the clock en route to Bluffton's second victory over the Lions in the past 15 meetings!
Leading the way offensively for the Beavers was Conner Sheehan who connected on 15-of-22 passing for 154 yards with an interception and a touchdown. Sheehan also had 14 crucial rushes for 50 yards. MICAH ROBERSON (Ada) led Bluffton in receiving as the junior hauled in 11 catches for 87 yards. The Beavers had a total of 286 yards while the Lions finished with a paltry 151 yards of offense.
Defense was key in this game as Bluffton had 11 tackles for loss on the afternoon. AUSTIN HALL (Piqua) and JAKE HARMON (Van Wert/Crestview) each notched nine tackles in the victory. ISAAC ZICKAFOOSE (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge) made his presence on the line as the sophomore got to the quarterback for two sacks. Brad Topp (Carlisle) racked up seven tackles, including 2.5 TFL's, while Gino Spadaro (Macedonia/Nordonia) finished with eight stops (five solos).
The Beavers will be looking for victory number four when they travel to face the Grizzlies of Franklin College in a huge Heartland Conference matchup on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 1:30 p.m. Bluffton’s last win against Franklin came in 2013 when the Grizzlies were ranked #9 in the nation and it stands as the only conference loss by FC in the past seven years! Franklin has won six straight HCAC titles and eight of the last nine championships.