HANOVER, Ind. - In a wild ending that saw three touchdowns scored in the final two minutes, the Hanover football team fell 35-34 to visiting Manchester at Alumni Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With the loss, the Panthers' three game-winning streak comes to an end as they fall to 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, while the Spartans improve to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in league play.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Hanover broke through on its first drive of the second quarter. Senior quarterback Chase Lightfoot (Crestwood, Ky.) hit freshman Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) on a screen pass, which Coane took 39 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Manchester tied the game right before the half with an eight-play, 75-yard drive. On second and two from the Panthers 35-yard line Spartans' quarterback Alex Downard found Dakota Nelson for a 35-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven with 21 seconds left in the opening half.
After a relatively uneventful first half, the action picked up in the third quarter. The first three drives of the half resulted in punts, including a one-yard kick by Manchester that gave the Blue and Red possession at the Spartans' 26-yard line. Three plays later, Lightfoot hit sophomore Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) from 31-yards out for his first receiving touchdown of the season and a 14-7 lead.
Manchester answered with a 13-play, 61-yard drive that took 5:13 off the clock. Donovan Henderson, Jr. capped the drive with a three-yard run on third-and-goal to tie the game for the second time.
That tie was short lived as Lightfoot led Hanover back down the field. A 23-yard touchdown pass was called back because of a penalty, but Lightfoot would later hit freshman Matt Pica (Delray Beach, Fla.) for a 22-yard scoring strike to put the Panthers back in front 21-14.
The defense quickly forced a three-and-out and Hanover regained possession at its own 37-yard line with nine second left in the third quarter. The offense drove down the field and Lightfoot tossed his third touchdown pass of the game when he found freshman Cory Leppert (Tampa, Fla.) for a 15-yard completion to push the lead to 28-14.
With 9:17 left in the game, the Spartans drove 34 yards on eight plays with Downard hitting Nelson for a four-yard touchdown pass. Manchester lined up to kick the extra point, but the holder took the snap and attempted to pass for the two-point conversion. The pass fell incomplete, but a pass interference penalty gave the Spartans a second chance in which Downard connected with Tyler Pruitt to cut the deficit to 28-22.
The ensuing three drives ended in punts and the Spartans had the ball back on their own 29-yard line. Manchester converted a fourth-and-one play from its own 38 and would eventually drive to the Hanover five-yard line. A two-yard run put the ball on the three, and after a time-out the Panthers forced a fourth-and-one with 2:04 to play. Downard crossed the goal line on a quarterback sneak and the point after attempt was good to give the Spartans their first lead of the game at 29-28 with 1:58 on the clock.
Hanover's next drive began deep in its own territory on the nine-yard line, but the offense needed only 1:08 to go 91 yards on five plays. Lightfoot completed three passes for 20 or more yards on the drive, including a 22-yard scoring strike to sophomore Jackson Daugherty (Greenwood, Ind.). A two-point attempt failed and the Panthers led 34-29 with 45 seconds to play.
Nelson returned the ensuing kick-off to the 37-yard line. With 39 seconds left, Downard, on the first play from scrimmage, found Nelson down the left sideline, where he out-ran defenders for a 63-yard touchdown. The two-point attempt failed, but Manchester led by one at 35-34.
A 34-yard return on the kick-off gave Hanover the ball at its own 43-yard line. Needing only a field goal to win, Lightfoot's first pass fell incomplete. His second pass also fell incomplete in what appeared to be pass interference that was not called. The senior quarterback was forced to scramble on the last play of the game and his last-second desperation heave was batted down to end the game.
After only scoring 14 total points in the first half and 35 through three quarters, the two teams combined for 34 fourth-quarter points. The Panthers out-gained Manchester 498-382 in total offensive yards. The Spartans led 33:04 to 26:56 in time of possession and forced the only turnover of the game, a first-quarter interception. They were penalized five times for 71 yards, while the Blue and Red were penalized 16 times for 236 yards.
Lightfoot threw for 382 yards on 31 of 41 passing. His 75.6 completion percentage marked the second time in the last three games, he's completed at least 75% of his throws. If not for three incompletions on the final drive, he would have finished over 80%, which would have approached Chris Stormer's school record of 88.6% set against Manchester in 1997.
Lightfoot also threw for a season-best five touchdown passes in the game. In three career starts against the Spartans, he has now thrown for 1,233 yards and 16 touchdowns, and also threw for 380 yards or more in all three contests. In addition, Lightfoot's 36-yard pass to Bleistein at the beginning of the fourth quarter put him over 5,000 passing yards for his career.
Coane had another big game. The first-year running back posted his fourth straight 100-yard rushing effort with 122 yards on 20 carries. He also caught eight passes for 112 more yards, including the 39-yard touchdown reception. Bleistein went over 100 yards receiving for the second time this season. He caught six passes for 122 yards with the 36-yard touchdown grab.
Senior Layne Harishfeger (Batesville, Ind.) led all defenders with a game-high 12 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Junior Brody Dell (Tipton, Ind.) and junior Zach Dauer (Cincinnati, Ohio) had nine and eight tackles respectively, with Dauer adding 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one quarterback hurry.
The Panthers will play their season-finale Saturday, November 11 when they host Franklin in the annual Victory Bell Game. Kick-off is set for 1:30 p.m. at Alumni Stadium in Hanover, Ind.
Contact: Mike Pritchard