Fourth quarter woes plague Panthers in season opener at Centre

Noah Wezensky

DANVILLE, Ky. – Despite a strong effort to open the contest, the Hanover College football team suffered a 28-18 loss at Centre (Ky.) Saturday evening.

The Panthers (0-1) tallied the first 12 points of the season opener but the Colonels (1-0) scored all 28 of their points in the second half to rally for the come-from-behind victory. Hanover took a 12-7 lead into the fourth quarter but were outscored 21-6 over the final 15 minutes.

Sophomore Noah Wezensky (Fort Wayne, Ind.) made his Hanover debut Saturday evening, completing 22-of-39 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. The quarterback also added 19 yards on the ground.

Benefitting the most from the gunslinger's passes was junior Jackson Daugherty (Greenwood, Ind.), who retrieved five catches for 60 yards and one touchdown. Classmate Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) added three receptions for 53 yards and one score. Sophomore Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) also produced over 100 total yards out of the backfield, logging 63 yards on the ground and 49 yards through the air.

Defensively, junior Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.) tallied a career high 12 tackles, including six stops in each half. Sophomore Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.) and junior Chase Cope (Mooresville, Ind.) followed with seven and five tackles respectively, while also recording two of HC's five tackles for loss.

In a low scoring first half, Hanover recorded the lone touchdown, as Wezensky connected with Daugherty on a 16-yard pass in the corner of the end zone. The touchdown toss gave Wezenskey seven completions in his first nine attempts for 61 yards.

The Panther defense flew around the field over the opening 30 minutes of play, allowing just 74 yards on 27 Centre plays. Sophomore Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) also pitched in on special teams, blocking a first half punt.

Unfortunately for HC, despite moving the ball down the field seemingly every offensive possession, the drives would come to halt once they crossed into Colonel territory.

The second half opened with a 34-yard touchdown completion from Wezensky to Bleistein, putting Hanover up 12-0 with 7:05 remaining in the third period. Hanover's point-after try was blocked.

Centre would rally to take its first lead of the contest, 14-12, after two consecutive scoring drives to end the third and start the fourth quarter. On the ensuing HC possession though, junior Jake Namisnak (Indianapolis, Ind.) sparked the Panther offense with a 34-yard run up the middle. Coane would cap the drive with a four-yard scamper into the end zone, putting HC back in front 18-14, with 9:08 remaining.

Hanover's defense made a much-needed stop near midfield after a long Centre kickoff return, giving the Panther offense solid field position with under six minutes to play. Wezensky's lone mistake of the night though came on an interception, giving CC possession in enemy territory. The Colonels would connect on a 34-yard score just a few plays later, recapturing the lead, 21-18, with 3:49 showing on the clock.

Centre would then force a three-out and a 56-yard touchdown rush followed, securing the victory, 28-18.

With the loss, Hanover suffers its eighth consecutive season-opening setback. Centre has also won the past six series meetings, including three at Farris Stadium.

The Panthers will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 8, when they host Thomas More (Ky.) for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff. The date with the Saints will also be Hanover's home opener.

Contact: Tyler Jester